Conductor Lionel Bringuier
Music and Opera reporting on is made possible by The University of North Texas College of Music.
Select the link below to discover more.

Review: Boléro | Dallas Symphony Orchestra | Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center

Press Repeat

The Dallas Symphony gave one of the earworms of classical music, Ravel's Bolèro, a sublime performance.

published Sunday, March 24, 2019

Photo: Mat Hennek
Pianist Hélène Grimaud

Dallas — With the exception of the crowd-favorite Boléro of Maurice Ravel, this weekend’s Dallas Symphony program favors subtlety.

The first half of the program is Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with French pianist Hélène Grimaud. This is Beethoven exploring unconventionality—the first movement, with its unconventional chord progressions, and the second movement, with its dramatic pauses and interplay between the strings and the soloist, must have seemed very strange to audiences during Beethoven’s lifetime. (The third movement, a much more traditional rondo, acts as a sort of corrective to the first two movements.)

Over 200 years after its composition, though, this concerto no longer sounds as peculiar to our ears. But Grimaud and guest conductor Lionel Bringuier, through somewhat quirky interpretive choices, allowed us to hear the piece anew. Bringuier maximized the native theatricality of the second movement, to a point that was almost mannered, and took the final movement at quite a rousing clip—I was a little concerned that strings wouldn’t be able to keep up, but keep up they did. Grimaud’s playing in the first movement was especially sensitive, allowing us to focus on the music, and, yes, its oddity, rather than on her playing. The DSO responded with a fine awareness of balance, never overwhelming her.

Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales and La Valse, played without a pause, verged on too much of a good thing. Valses nobles et sentimentales is a set of eight waltzes, with a total performed length of about 18 minutes. So, some of the waltzes present almost as fragments, whiplashing from one musical idea to the next, and in this regard, following with the longer-form La Valse allowed listeners to refocus. Still, when followed by Boléro, this is 45 minutes of musical impressionism, and the audience was a bit restless during La Valse, although Bringuier coaxed excellent playing out of the orchestra.

The benefit to all this Ravel, though, is that is allows us as listeners to hear the evolution of his orchestration. Ravel was singularly creative at using instruments in unexpected ways and surprising timbral combinations. Nowhere is this most evident in what is by far his most famous piece, Boléro. Like La valse, it was originally written as a ballet. Ravel was fond of restyling dances—not only the waltzes and bolero we see here, but also forms such as the minuet and the pavane and even the dance suite, as seen in Le tombeau de Couperin.

Boléro, of course, is famous because of its insistent, endlessly repetitive snare drum solo (delivered with metronomic precision by percussionist Daniel Florio) and its almost equally repetitive melodic theme, which is passed among soloists and sections from the expected flute (David Buck, with a deliciously warm tone), clarinet, bassoon, and oboe to less conventional solo instruments, including tenor saxophone (Tim Roberts, producing a gorgeous, buttery sound), E-flat clarinet, and soprano saxophone. While Boléro can be off-putting in its repetitiveness—it inevitably gives me an earworm for days—when played well, as it was Thursday night, listeners also have an opportunity to recognize Ravel’s ability to create innovative colors and timbres. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Press Repeat
The Dallas Symphony gave one of the earworms of classical music, Ravel's Bolèro, a sublime performance.
by J. Robin Coffelt

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :