Steinberg and Fliter provide fresh discovery in (yet another) Romantic Dallas Symphony program

Sat Nov 05, 2016 at 11:54 am
By Wayne Lee Gay
Ingrid Fliter performed Schumann's Piano Cponcerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Friday night. Photo: Sussie Ahlburg

Ingrid Fliter performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Friday night. Photo: Sussie Ahlburg

Conductor Pinchas Steinberg provided a solid podium presence and pianist Ingrid Fliter added a touch of eccentricity for a consistently exciting Romantic program by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Friday night at Meyerson Symphony Center.

        The Israel-born Steinberg, chief conductor of the Budapest Philharmonic, opened with Cesar Franck’s Le chasseur maudit (The Accursed Huntsman), a deftly crafted showpiece depicting a hunter who is hounded into Hell for the sin of hunting on Sunday. While it’s hard to take the premise seriously, it’s not difficult to enjoy the over-the-top tone painting here, particularly when it shows off the DSO’s superb horn section so well. From the opening blast (representing a hunter’s horn), the section was in top form, even at the point at which the principal (David Cooper) has to represent a hunter’s horn malfunctioning under the curse of sin with a weird, muted noise.

        Fliter took the stage for Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. After the famous opening cascade of chords, Steinberg lingered over the main theme, and the Argentinian pianist replied with an assertive rubato of the sort that pushed expectations even in this quintessentially romantic work. Steinberg clearly supported Fliter in this striking approach, resulting in a performance of the first movement that focused convincingly on the impetuosity of the work.

        However, a heavy foot on the pedal made for blurry moments in the cadenza of the first movement and in the exposed sections of the delicately scored second; still, the overall effect was vivid and relentlessly engaging. Fliter and Steinberg succeeded in bringing a unique quality to this familiar work, and, indeed, produced a reading much in keeping with what we know of the composer’s outlook and philosophy.

PInchas Steinberg

Pinchas Steinberg

        The music of Brahms has played a large role in the orchestra’s repertoire this fall, with performances of the Violin Concerto and Requiem already completed and the Fourth Symphony on the schedule later this month.

Although there was no music of Brahms on this concert, the two composers whom Brahms knew most closely, Schumann and Dvorak formed the bulk of the evening’s agenda, with Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony forming the second half of the evening.

        While millions adore Dvorak’s Ninth (“New World”) Symphony, the Eighth is arguably an even greater accomplishment. No composer so successfully integrated the raw material of folksong into large-scale symphonic form, at the same time marrying heartfelt emotion with sturdy musical structure. The Eighth Symphony, rich with folk melodies and superbly crafted, represents these qualities of Dvorak perfectly.

        Steinberg, conducting from memory, opened this towering work with impressive subtlety, drawing the slow introductory phrase almost without physical motion before journeying into the rapid-fire presentation of contrasting ideas. In the second movement, he savored the full richness of the DSO string section, ultimately turning it into an exploration of the orchestra’s sonic possibilities.

        Steinberg pacing of the quiet ending of the third movement made it an ideal portal before the trumpet fanfare that announces the masterful variations of the finale, which built irresistible momentum toward the rollicking coda.

        One might reasonably object to the Dallas Symphony’s heavy reliance on familiar romantic works on its fall concerts—at a level even greater than is usual for American orchestras. However, it’s hard to complain very much about a concert so engagingly executed and well played.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.; 214-692-0203.

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