Dallas — Saturday night was a special evening for the concertgoers attending the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s youth concert organized under the auspices of the DSO Teen Council. Young violinist Christine Wu, winner of this year’s Lynn Harrell Concerto Competition, gave a strong premiere as featured soloist in the first movement of Sibelius’ dramatic Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47. Filling out the program was Three Dance Episodes from On the Town by Bernstein and music from Mendelssohn’s supernatural A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
At the podium was DSO’s recently appointed Assistant Conductor, Karina Canellakis.
For Bernstein’s Thee Dance Episodes from On the Town, members of the DSO were joined by the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra. The young musicians were obviously well rehearsed as evidenced by a unified sound that on occasion made one squint the ears to be sure that it was not a professional ensemble on stage. Bernstein’s jazzy and sometimes disjointed writing was handled admirably by the group, led by Canellakis’ clear if not metronomic indications.
Eighteen-year-old Christine Wu’s performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto demonstrated a musical maturity well beyond her age. A strikingly bold sound had no trouble filling the hall while her technical facility allowed easy access to all corners of the single movement presented. Her inexperience as a soloist was only revealed in a rhythmic and physical stiffness, which will likely fade with age. As rehearsal time for these sorts of concerts is at a minimum, the communication between the conductor and musicians becomes crucial. Canellakis was attune to smaller details in the score but was not successful in drawing out a convincing large structure of the work in cooperation with the soloist. However, this did not significantly hinder the enjoyment of hearing a young violinist finding her wings. Wu is certainly a musician to watch in the coming years.
Mendelssohn famously wrote what would become the overture to his incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he was a mere 17 years old. But it was not until relatively late in his career that he incorporated this early music into a larger composition to accompany the Shakespeare play along with various other theatrical pieces at the request of Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Having been promised by the king a prominent title, funding for a school, and comfortable compensation in Berlin, Mendelssohn composed a series of work blending theatre, literature, and music. However, he returned to Leipzig to establish his own school after realizing that funds in Berlin were insufficient. For this performance of the suite, Joanna Schellenberg gave a warm and seductive reading of passages from the Shakespeare play. Once again, Canellakis was impressive in her attention to details in the score, but her tendency to over-conduct caused a bit of sloppiness in the ensemble. On the final movement, the Booker T. Washington High School Young Women’s Chorus joined, giving an additional layer of fairy likeness to the music. A beautify sung solo by soprano Audra Methvin set the movement off.
The Dallas Symphony Teen Council exists to serve as both an outreach program to engage area teens in classical music as well as to inform DSO leadership on issues important to this population. The Council was responsible for many aspects of the production for the evening’s concert, from music selection to program notes (on which members Chase Dobson, Shannon Lotti and Nivedina Sarma did a fine job). The intermission interviews with both Wu and Canellakis, while tempered by the nerves of speaking in front of the Meyerson audience, were an interesting, non-musical insight into the personality of the performers. One hopes that the DSO continues to take seriously the effort to grow new and younger audiences through programs such as this.