Yang’s Tchaikovsky lights up Dallas Symphony concert

Fri Oct 11, 2019 at 5:02 pm
By Richard Sylvester Oliver
Joyce Yang performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Thursday night. Photo: Oh Seok Hoon

There has been much debate about the artistic merits of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat since its debut in Boston 144 years ago.

Yet Tchaikovsky’s concerto remains one of the most beloved and recognizable melodic works in the repertoire.

The sublime performance by Joyce Yang with Edo de Waart conducting the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Thursday night at Meyerson Symphony Center, clearly displayed the qualities that have made this keyboard warhorse so beloved.

With triumphantly bold chords opening the first movement, many soloists take a bombastic approach in their interpretation. Yang, however, spread the chords ever so slightly with a hint of romantic lyricism.

With little rubato and brisk, straightforward tempos, the opening movement pulsed with virtuosity. The movement is rife with moments of build-up between piano and orchestra that erupt into showy solo lines. Wang was  technical and precise in her quick, wide octave leaps, and her hand-over-hand arpeggios were delivered gently and elegantly.

De Waart and the orchestra provided support of equal care, particularly in the second movement. The gently rustic flute theme was set beautifully in playful exchanges with piano in the Andantino semplice, with vivid swaths of daylight laid out in winds and strings. 

The cohesion remained tight between piano and orchestra during the opening of the third movement. It was a return to dizzying brilliance with Yang’s solo lines flurrying to and fro between deep and dark crashes to perky, silvery glints. She was swallowed up a bit by the orchestra at times though the principal moments still came through with fury and brilliance.

Yang provided added pleasure with a contrasted encore, Gershwin’s “The Man I Love.” 

The Tchaikovsky concerton was flanked by a Nocturne and, fittingly, Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 in A minor. 

Composed in 2011, Florida-born Michael Ippolito’s Nocturne opened the program. This  fanciful interpretation of night music, inspired by the active figures of Joan Miro’s work of the same name, expands the genre with bright, busy subjects and whimsical quotations from Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat. 

In this Dallas premiere, the strings seemed initially a bit overzealous, but fit against upwardly flittering lines in the flutes, syncopated brass and a dramatic harp chords.

Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 served as an apt complement to the main event. The three-movement work opens on a dark, unsettling prayer in horns and cello before suddenly erupting into a full orchestral exclamation. 

Throughout its span, Rachmaninoff’s final symphony is full of surprises which de Waart and the DSO navigated with convincing effect. 

The Adagio ma non troppo starts with sumptuous soundings from the harp against a dark horn, followed by a plaintive solo violin. The melancholic mood breaks into angst-ridden tremolo strings in the transition before arriving to the frenzied concluding Allegro vivace. 

Here, the orchestra managed to convey the modernity of Rachmaninoff’s soundscape as the finale returns to the opening theme. Now fuller, with the whole orchestra involved, new glimpses of dissonance and color are made available as the Allegro vivace of the third movement hurries to a proud finish.

The three works’ shifting moods and tones of each piece fit together into an attractive whole in an altogether thrilling program.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. mydso.com, 214-692-0203.

Richard Oliver is a vocal coach and artistic consultant in Dallas, Texas. He teaches music and theater at the Dallas Academy of Music and Performing Arts, and has been reporting on the Dallas-Fort Worth performing arts scene since 2018.

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