Richardson — In the Metroplex, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to symphony orchestras. Of course, we have the Dallas and Fort Worth Symphonies, but there are also several regional orchestras offering interesting programming, quality music, and for many patrons, shorter drive times than to their Dallas and Fort Worth counterparts. One of these is the Richardson Symphony.
The orchestra performs at the stately Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts in Richardson, which provided an impressive venue for Saturday’s concert. The (rather long) program began and ended with a pair of symphonies, Haydn’s No. 94 in G Major, the “Surprise,” and Beethoven’s No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36. These each had some truly lovely moments of music making. Conductor Clay Couturiaux is skilled at crafting thoughtful phrases, tempi were reasonable in the Beethoven, and the Haydn had real verve. Precision was often lacking, however—ensemble was sometimes ragged and intonation imperfect within string sections and in the winds as a whole.
These better-known pieces aside, the real highlight of the evening was Andrés Martin’s 2012 Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra.
Martin is an Argentinian composer and bassist born in 1981. His musical language incorporates Latin concepts such as tango, but while those ideas were clearly apparent in his concerto, he has also created a piece that highlights the various possibilities of this instrument. While some of the (very limited) solo repertoire for bass seems to hover in the upper registers of the instrument, Martin systematically uses the entire range, including the growling open E string.
Similarly, he highlights both the lyrical and technical possibilities of the instrument, creating a concerto that places the highest demands on the player. Soloist Jeff Bradetich, Regents Professor of Double Bass at the University of North Texas, met those demands with aplomb. Bass, like tuba, is often thought of strictly in a supporting role, as an instrument that places few demands on its players. Bradetich dispelled this myth in a bit more than half an hour Saturday night. While the sheer size of the bass makes pyrotechnics inherently cumbersome, Bradetich came the closest I’ve ever heard in the third movement of the Martin concerto.
He dropped a few notes, yes, but for the most part this was playing of the highest caliber. Lyrical passages in the “Nocturno” slow movement were gorgeous, rich, and chocolatey. Bradetich has technique to burn, and musicality to boot: his was one of those performances that revealed new possibilities to the listener, making things previously assumed impossible possible. As is so often the case when joined by an exceptional soloist, the orchestra sounded its best, too.