Flutist Buck and DSO colleagues tackle Nielsen’s collaborative concerto in style

Fri Jan 12, 2024 at 1:41 pm
By J. Robin Coffelt
Dallas Symphony Orchestra principal David Buck performed Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto with the DSO Thursday night.

This week’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra concerts are bookended by a pair of Russians, with a Dane in the middle. It’s apt fodder for a chilly winter weekend, and the DSO, under young guest conductor Dmitry Matvienko making his U.S. debut, ably heated up the Meyerson Symphony Center.

Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto was the evening’s centerpiece with DSO principal David Buck as soloist. Buck’s orchestral solos consistently displayed a warm, golden tone and impressive technical facility which he also showcased in his concerto performance. 

The Nielsen concerto is written in two movements. While the first movement has cantabile passages that allowed Buck to showcase his lush tone, most of the concerto is a virtuosic tour de force showing off Buck’s nimble technique, impeccable phrasing, and impressive breath control. Buck has an appealing stage presence as well—dancer-like dips of the right knee served to emphasize phrases without being overly showy. 

The orchestra under Matvienko supported him with finesse, too. This concerto is highly collaborative between the soloist and orchestra soloists. Clarinetist Gregory Raden, bassoonist Ted Soluri, violist Meredith Kufchak, and bass trombone Darren McHenry supported Buck with their own fine solos.

The evening began with Anatoly Lyadov’s The Enchanted Lake, a seven-minute textural playground for the orchestra. While Lyadov might not be a household name even for experienced listeners, the Russian conductor and DSO made the most of this brief but charming mini-tone poem.

After intermission, the orchestra presented Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. The second most celebrated of the composer’s seven symphonies—after the “Classical (No. 1)—each movement of this piece is an absolute jewel. 

Dmitry Matvienko made his U.S. debut leading the DSO Thursday night.

Matvienko drew and shaped stellar playing from the DSO. He obviously has a keen understanding of this music, and was able to impart his musical ideas to the orchestra, with impressive results. His conducting style is precise, with a clear downbeat, and while expressive, favors compact and efficient gestures over theatricality.  

The orchestra responded to this clarity with crystalline ensemble, most notably in the tricky and exposed third movement, with its substantial intervalic leaps in the highest register of the first violins. Orchestral pianist Anastasia Markina got Prokofiev’s character exactly right; percussion was tight, and co-concertmaster Nathan Olson’s violin solo at the end of the fourth movement was dazzling. Slightly better balance in the strings—the inner voices occasionally got a bit lost in the texture—is the smallest of quibbles in what was otherwise a memorable night of music.

Increasingly, audiences at DSO concerts (and other Dallas classical performances) are applauding and even cheering between movements. Last night’s concert was no exception with substantial applause between the two movements of the Nielsen, and applause and even a raucous whoop from the balcony after the first movement of the Prokofiev. 

Perhaps a diplomatic program insert about expected audience conventions is an idea for the new year.

The program will be repeated 7:30 p.m. Friday. dallasymphony.org

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