Dallas — Apparently, I’m never going to like the Dvořák violin concerto. Oh, I love nearly everything else he wrote—the chamber music, the symphonies, the cello concerto—but the violin concerto, except for the joyous, bouncing theme of the third movement, leaves me cold.
Because if Hilary Hahn’s masterful performance with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under guest conductor Hannu Lintu couldn’t convince me to fall in love, nothing ever will. Hahn may be the most technically perfect violinist alive. Even when I don’t agree with her interpretive choices, I can never manage to fault her execution. Her playing is a master class in vibrato, in intonation, in bow technique. She makes the impossible seem effortless.
Still, I’d rather hear her play something else. The Dvořák concerto simply has too few good ideas relative to its length. Luckily, Hahn played an encore, the Gigue from the Partita No. 3 for Solo Violin by Bach. Her Bach was astonishing. Hahn’s sound fills the Meyerson, and is rich and round and warm. This was utterly delicious playing by a genius of her craft.
The Lay Family Concert Organ got a relatively rare airing this weekend, too, with organist James Diaz performing Samy Moussa’s “A Globe Itself Infolding” with the DSO. Long, sustained, quasi-minimalist chords, an organ cadenza, and a seat-rattling close, gave us, for once, ample opportunity truly to hear the organ and its beauty. Composer Moussa was present for an ovation.
Orchestral works on the curiously varied program included Sibelius’ Finlandia, perhaps an homage to conductor Lintu’s country of origin, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, written when he was just 18 years old. Both revealed not only the orchestra’s polish, but also the conductor’s flamboyance. Some stick technique, such as the below-the-podium downbeat or the sideways swish, seemed more for the benefit of the audience than the orchestra (because who can see that below-the-podium stuff, beyond the first stand of strings?). Still, he got better results from the orchestra than DSO guest conductors sometimes do.
Many individual players deserve kudos for solos in the Shostakovich, including pianist Gabriel Sanchez, for a brilliant performance, co-concertmaster Nathan Olson, new DSO principal flute David Buck, principal oboe Erin Hannigan, and timpanist Brian Jones.
With last week’s performances of Mahler Symphony No. 5, this orchestra showed that it has found its voice again. This week’s concert just proved it.