Classical music: Van Zweden leads another riveting Dallas Symphony concert

Leonidas Kavakos
The Dallas Morning News

I’m not alone in wishing the Dallas Symphony Orchestra wouldn’t schedule concerts over major religious holidays–not least because they keep orchestra musicians from observations. But Holy Week didn’t seem to dampen ticket demand this week, to the extent that–despite scatterings of empty seats Friday night–the cheapest ticket prices were jacked up to three figures.

Most amazing of all may have been the Beethoven Fifth Symphony, overexposed around here, but on this occasion as fresh, challenging and frankly wonderful as if brand-new. Beyond the sheer electricity, definitely high-voltage, I marveled at van Zweden’s feeling for the music’s architecture. One sensed the strength of the pilings, the calculated strains of the cantilevers, the transitions from one musical space and texture to another.

Violins took on apt graininess when it made sense, but violas and cellos entered the second movement with velvety loveliness. Solo wind contributions were elegantly shaped and finished, but horns whipped up aptly outdoorsy sounds in the finale.

Van Zweden and violinist Leonidas Kavakos made a gripping case for Bartok’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Sadly, an inexcusably superficial program note gave the audience no help in a work mingling mystery, chromatic elusiveness, lyricism and rowdiness–and, yes, some violinistic fireworks. What may have sounded like out-of-tune violin notes in the first movement are in fact written-in quarter tones, pitches in between the keys of a piano.

With a big, rich, gleaming tone, Kavakos had all the ardor and virtuosity one could wish, compromised only by occasional patches of rushing that no orchestra could have matched. Start to finish, the DSO played wonderfully. 

Read the rest of the review here