Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bruckner 5 at Myerson Hall, Dallas (Jaap van Zweden conducting the Dallas Symphony)

Bruckner, Symphony No. 5
Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jaap van Zweden
Myerson Symphony Hall, Dallas TX
October 16, 2015

 With his recently released recording of the First, Jaap van Zweden has completed his complete Bruckner cycle for Exton with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, where he was Chief Conductor before moving in 2012 to Dallas as Music Director of the DSO. I reviewed the Fourth, Seventh, and Ninth in the cycle here, and was very impressed by van Sweden’s performance of the Eighth with the DSO at Myerson Hall in 2012. So I had high expectations coming into this concert, and was not disappointed.

Here are the timings for van Zweden’s taut and well-structured performance (using the 1951 Nowak edition of the 1878 version):

1 = 20’35”
2 = 17’05”
3 = 12’10”
4 = 22’20”

Van Zweden’s interpretation of Bruckner’s most cerebral symphony was very warm, but with no compromise on the formal focus. The acoustics at Myerson Hall seem particularly well-suited to Bruckner, and the DSO rose to the occasion with a wonderfully rich sound and very fine playing across the board. None of the soloists disappointed, and the principal flautist Demarre McGill was particularly impressive.

In the first movement van Zweden brought the contrasting themes into dialog very well, maintaining forward momentum throughout with a strong pulse and confident brass playing, particularly in the coda. The slow movement allowed the balanced sound of the DSO to emerge to good effect, with Van Zweden opting to make the movement sing rather than sound like a dirge. The scherzo was forceful but supple, maintaining a driving rhythm with dance steps never very far away. The opening of the finale was very precise, with the precision persisting into the first fugal passage, which van Zweden and the DSO managed to play with both clarity and warmth. There was more confident and focused playing from the brass, nicely balanced with the rest of the orchestra. The double fugue and closing minutes were extremely powerful.

 This was a terrific performance. Van Zweden and the DSO held the Dallas audience in rapt attention and received a well-deserved standing ovation.

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