Dallas — Last weekend’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts featured (relatively) neglected pieces by well-known composers, under the baton of former DSO Assistant Conductor Karina Canellakis. One, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B flat Major, is neglected only compared to other pieces by the same composer—in this case Beethoven’s other eight symphonies, which are likely all performed more often than the Fourth. Another, Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor, this weekend with soloist Daniel Müller-Schott, is entirely familiar to cellists, but is less recognizable to most of the rest of us. It was the two pieces by Edward Elgar that must have been new to most listeners, though: his In the South (Alassio), which ended the program, and Sursum corda, which began it.
Sursum corda (“Lift up Your Hearts”) received its first DSO performances in this progra, and I cannot imagine why it hasn’t been played here before. Clocking in at just eight minutes long, and scored for strings, brass, tympani, and organ, it is a marvelous opener and a fine vehicle for organist Bradley Hunter Welch and the Meyerson’s splendid but woefully underused Lay Family Concert Organ. Canellakis and the DSO lovingly molded each phrase, and the last chords were goose-bump material.
Canellakis’ take on the Beethoven was no less thoughtful. While I might nitpick about some of her choices—dynamic contrast sometimes took precedence over rich tone—the overall effect was profoundly musical, with close attention to phrasing. Canellakis clearly knew what she wanted from the orchestra, and they delivered. Her knowledge of the Meyerson’s acoustics from her time as assistant conductor may have benefitted her; I have seldom heard the orchestra or the hall to such advantage.
Cellist Daniel Müller-Schott was also impressive in Schumann’s Cello Concerto. While there are certainly better-known cello concertos, and perhaps for good reason, Müller-Schott performed this one brilliantly. His lyric, legato playing is particularly excellent, although his technique is also impressive.
Elgar’s In the South (Alassio) is sometimes called a short tone poem—it clocks in at about 20 minutes—and sometimes a long orchestral overture. Either way, it is gorgeous, and includes a prominent viola solo, played elegantly by Ann Marie Brink. (It is difficult to get a solo viola to project well in a large hall without sounding forced, so Brink’s luscious tone was a particular accomplishment.) Like Sursum corda, this is a piece that should become part of the regular rotation.