Dallas — Joyce Yang, the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medalist, is a local favorite, and with good reason. This weekend, she is performing another favorite, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on a program that also includes the music of Rachmaninoff and Michael Ippolito, under the baton of the legendary Edo de Waart. On Thursday night, Yang was brilliant, as was the Dallas Symphony.
Michael Ippolito is Assistant Professor of Composition at Texas State University. His 10-minute piece Nocturne features elements of neoromanticism paired with rhythmic complexity — even in the piece’s lyric idylls, there is much for everyone to do. And the orchestra sounded great under de Waart’s baton; particularly, Principal Flute David Buck glittered in his expressive solos.
For many listeners, though, the highlight of the evening was Yang’s performance of the Tchaikovsky. This is a concerto in nearly every piano soloist’s repertoire; it is a true warhorse — it was Van Cliburn’s signature. The challenge with such a frequently performed piece, for the soloist, is to be distinctive without being outlandish, and Yang accomplished just that. Her phrasing was elegant and thoughtful, if her touch was occasionally a bit heavy.
Yang’s first movement cadenza was light and sparkling, brooding and introspective at turns. The second movement’s opening theme was unusually slow, but so very delicate. David Buck again had gorgeous solos, as did Principal Oboe Erin Hannigan and Principal Cello Chris Adkins. The third movement included some slightly ragged ensemble but was ultimately a scintillating triumph for both the orchestra and for Yang.
Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor is not played often — indeed, this weekend’s performances are the first by the DSO in 24 years. And that’s a shame, for while it may lack the catchy melodies of some of Rachmaninoff’s piano music, it is among the most forward-looking of Rachmaninoff’s compositions, and has some breathtaking moments.
The Dallas Symphony’s performance was superb, with fine solo turns by Acting Principal Horn David Heyde, Principal Harp Emily Levin, Concertmaster Alex Kerr, and English horn David Matthews. The strings were consistently on solid ground despite the trickiness of Rachmaninoff’s writing; the viola section in particular, which has several new members, is sounding better than it has in recent seasons. De Waart, in his first appearance with the DSO, brought the best out of this orchestra, showing once again that this ensemble is capable of extraordinary excellence. What a joy.