Dallas — Changes are afoot in the Dallas Symphony after the departure of Music Director Jaap van Zweden, and some of those changes were evident Friday during the ReMix casual series concert at Moody Performance Hall.
Led by former assistant conductor Ruth Reinhardt, the orchestra began with Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin. Under van Zweden, the DSO was notoriously shaky in the French repertoire: the delicacy required for Ravel, Fauré, Bizet, and the like was often lacking. But Friday’s concert may represent a sea change under the orchestra’s new leadership. Reinhardt and the orchestra demonstrated a sure command of the Ravel, as did Principal Oboe Erin Hannigan—Le Tombeau is a double reed showpiece. Tempo in the first movement especially was a bit faster than usual, but ensemble stayed precise, and Reinhardt shaped phrases with care.
Next up on the brief, intermissionless program was Grażyna Bacewicz’s Concerto for String Orchestra. The decision to program this piece might be reflective of another change: this is the first piece by a woman that the orchestra has performed in a couple of seasons. However, the DSO recently named Julia Wolfe its composer-in-residence, and at least 10 compositions by women will be commissioned by the orchestra over the next decade as part of its “Women in Classical Music” initiative.
Bacewicz, a Polish composer who lived from 1909 to 1969, studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s, and was concertmaster of the Polish Radio Orchestra. Bacewicz was writing in a neoclassicist style when she composed this piece in 1948, but rather than playing with conventions of melody in the Concerto for String Orchestra, she seems to be experimenting with tonal color and texture. The three-movement piece is in a conventional fast-slow-fast form, and begins with a pesante, rustic effect, then adds more legato, lyrical solos in the cello and violin—well played by Christopher Adkins and Nathan Olson, respectively—and harmonics in viola. It’s a novel mix of elevated and earthy.
The final piece on the program was the crowd-pleasing “Italian” symphony of Felix Mendelssohn. In the joyful key of A Major, Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony is a happy romp through the Italian sunshine. The DSO’s violins wowed in the tricky first movement, with impressively tight ensemble and plenty of sparkle. A few intonation issues in both strings and winds and some rushing in the fourth movement didn’t diminish the overall effervescent effect.
There was lots of clapping in between movements, which was a hint that these ReMix concerts are having the desired effect of bringing new audiences to hear the DSO. Between the lower ticket prices and the shorter performance times, not to mention the included snacks and drinks (yay for the Aperol Spritzes and local craft beers, a big step up from past offerings!), these concerts are attracting crowds who are clearly not regular classical concertgoers. And the hall was mostly full, too, a feat on a rainy, stormy evening.