Review: Orchestra Responds to Inspired Leader

 In News, Reviews
By Scott Cantrell of The Dallas Morning News.

Opened in 2012, the 750-seat acoustically adjustable Dallas City Performance Hall virtually begged for the chamber orchestra series the city had lacked. Into that void immediately stepped the Dallas Chamber Symphony, newly organized by artistic director Richard McKay.

[At] the group’s season-closing concert Tuesday night… [McKay’s conducting] inspired the largest number of musicians I’ve seen under the DCS banner to fully engaged, shapely performances. The biggest surprise may have been hearing the Brahms First Symphony performed by only 40 musicians. But Brahms himself led a mere 49 players at the premiere, and the lively acoustics of the City Performance Hall certainly needed no more.  If one missed full-orchestra plushness, the smaller ensemble clarified Brahms’ dense textures. With far fewer strings than usual, the usual numbers of winds and brasses were set in higher relief. In fact, at least in this acoustic winds and brasses sometimes could have been more reticent… There were notable solos from Sharon Lacey (oboe), Jonathan Jones (clarinet), David Lesser (horn) and Kazuhiro Takagi (violin).

 

Pianist Kenneth Broberg performs Franz Liszt’s Totentanz with the Dallas Chamber Symphony during a concert at City Performance Hall in Dallas on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. (Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News)(Staff Photographer)

Opening the concert, Alberto Ginastera’s 1953 Variaciones concertantes showcased different players in contrasting variations, variously transmuting folk-music idioms from the composer’s native Argentina. The performance didn’t always have the sleek sheen of a full-time professional orchestra, but it was certainly accomplished.  Standouts were Jones’ sassy scherzo,  Lacey and Leslie Massenburg in an oboe-and-bassoon duet, Takagi’s virtuoso display and Lesser’s lyrical pastorale. (Less welcome were repeated vocal contributions from a couple of too-young children.) The full-orchestra finale, a jolly dance flashing brilliant colors, turning into an Argentine Rite of Spring, was dispatched with pizazz.

Pianist Kenneth Broberg performs Franz Liszt’s Totentanz with the Dallas Chamber Symphony during a concert at City Performance Hall in Dallas on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. (Rose Baca/The Dallas Morning News)(Staff Photographer)

Pianist Kenneth Broberg, winner of the 2016 Dallas Chamber Symphony International Piano Competition, delivered the up-and-down chatters, thunders and sweeps of Liszt’s virtuosic Totentanz with brilliance and authority, but he also brought poetry to more introspective passages… He’ll be one of the contestants at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, coming to Fort Worth in May.

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