Review: Serenades Suave and Spirited

 In News, Reviews

By Scott Cantrell | Dallas Morning News

“One of the happiest parts of a music critic’s job is reporting the improvement of an artist or ensemble. The dramatic growth in assurance and sophistication by the Dallas Chamber Symphony and its artistic director, Richard McKay, certainly were on display in an enjoyable Tuesday night concert at Moody Performance Hall.”

“[McKay’s] conducting balanced clarity and fluidity, gracefully shaping the music without putting on a superfluous show for the audience.”

“The compact music-lite program was nicely suited to a school night, and a chilly, rainy one at that… it was good to see a crowd noticeably younger than Dallas Symphony norms.”

“Appealing string serenades framed the program. Outer movements of Samuel Barber’s unjustly neglected Op. 1 almost could pass for Elgar, with deft instrumental interplays and yearning harmonies. The slower central movement injects a bit more harmonic piquancy.”

“The Tchaikovsky is an established classic, and it got a spirited, even passionate, account, with soft touches for the fourth-movement Elegy. Both here and in the Barber, McKay gave the music unforced urgency, while shaping phrases just so and giving the music room to stretch.”

“McKay and the Dallas Chamber Symphony have been exploring new film music in numerous concerts, so a concert piece by one of history’s most successful film composers was a natural centerpiece. But even the Goyana Sketches by Franz Waxman, from 1960, has visual associations, its movements inspired by four paintings by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya.”

“Waxman adds piano and percussion to the string ensemble. Appropriately for Spanish associations, the former at first suggests guitar strummings. Later, the piano injects some drama, but without taking a true solo role. Castanets clack in the “Country Dance” movement, and “The Witches’ Sabbath” is tarted up with xylophone clatters.”

“The music is, as you’d expect, thoroughly cinematic, and cleverly wrought. Pianist Kyle Orth and percussionist Drew Lang joined in a fetching performance.”

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