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Don’t miss this: Virtuoso horn playing by David Cooper at the Dallas Symphony

01.13.17
Karina Canellakis
Dallas News

If you'd like to hear some dazzling horn playing, get on your phone or computer right now and order a ticket for one of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's repeat performances this weekend.
 
The DSO's principal horn, David Cooper, has been tapped for the same job with the Berlin Philharmonic, starting in September. Exactly why was more than evident Thursday night in his performance of Richard Strauss' Horn Concerto No. 1.
 
This was technique of astonishing agility and breath control, allied to sophisticated musicality. Cooper could dispatch flourishes with gleaming tone, then string out lyric lines with the creamiest legato, every phrase elegantly shaped and directed. Obviously enjoying himself, he made it all seem utterly effortless—on a notoriously cranky instrument.
 
Karina Canellakis, the DSO's assistant conductor from 2014 to 2016, returned to the Meyerson Symphony Center podium as a guest. During her previous tenure she twice made headlines as an authoritative last-minute replacement for music director Jaap van Zweden, in challenging programs. On Thursday, on her own, she brought sure and sympathetic command to the Strauss, and indeed to the whole concert.
 
The program opened with a refreshing account of Beethoven's Eighth Symphony, the composer's lively tempos sensibly adjusted for a larger and louder modern orchestra, in a much larger and more reverberant space than Beethoven would have known. She resisted the false monumentality often imposed on the composer, savoring the dynamic contrasts, the thrusting accents, the playfulness. Winds were brought forward just so. 
 
The music briefly rages against the dying of the light, and in the slow movement maybe laments its dimming. But for the most part it fairly pulses with joy.
 
Canellakis brought all this out, with rhythmic acuity that could yield when needed, and with careful layerings of dynamics. The orchestra played splendidly, with fine solos and duets too numerous to name. To hear such an orchestral showpiece so compellingly done in spectacular acoustics was a thrill.