Feddeck makes a case for DSO short list with rescue of Beethoven program

Fri Sep 29, 2017 at 3:07 pm
By Wayne Lee Gay

James Feddeck conducted the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Thursday night, Photo: Ben Ealovega

Any all-Beethoven concert contains potential pitfalls and rewards. The program offered Thursday night at the Meyerson Symphony Center — with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, guest soloist Rudolf Buchbinder and fill-in conductor James Feddeck— offered both.

It’s hard to argue against presenting music by one of humanity’s true geniuses; that’s part of an orchestra’s brief. It helps that few programs sell as many tickets on the basis of repertoire alone as Beethoven.But an all-Beethoven concert — particularly one devoted entirely to iconic works — also risks stereotyping the orchestra as a musty musical museum, and represents a lost opportunity to introduce new works, to nudge the audience toward a broader view of classical music.

So there’s an extra burden on the musicians to present a meaningful performance at this sort of event. Unfortunately, 70-year-old Austrian pianist Buchbinder, soloist for the Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”), failed miserably in that regard.

The trouble began with the piano introduction, its magic obliterated by Buchbinder’s bomb-blasting (and  over-pedaled) entrance and replaced with pure bluster. Exaggerated dynamics, and that heavy foot on the pedal, prevailed through most of the performance. A few moments of subtlety managed to emerge in the lyrical Adagio middle movement, but the jolting tremor at the segue into the finale — this is supposed to be a ray of light, not a nuclear attack — destroyed any emerging sense of balance.

For his part, the American-born and -trained conductor Feddeck, stepping in at the last minute for music director Jaap van Zweden, did his part to build and maintain a foundation for the beauty and grandeur of the piece. Feddeck, 33, is clearly not afraid to spotlight ideas hidden in the music’s texture and to emphasize, when appropriate, the sometimes yearning motifs lurking beneath the sweeping melodies.

Feddeck carried those strong ideas and worthy impulses forward into the Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”). With the players responding precisely to his articulated conducting, he developed a meaningfully broad palette of orchestral colors and dynamic range, epitomized here in his carrying of that miraculous elision from the opening exclamations into the ear-grabbing syncopation of the first theme.

Feddeck continued to impress through the constant shifts of mood and timbre in the Funeral March movement, while the flow of the last movement from its raucous opening to the delicate pizzicato of its finale proved breathtaking.

Whether he was in the running or not before Thursday night, Feddeck’s rescue of the program from a disturbingly flawed solo performance should place him on the shortlist of van Zweden’s potential successors.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Meyerson Symphony Center. mydso.com214-849-4376

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