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Musical Offerings Test New Acoustics

THE three opening concerts I heard here were all provocative tests of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center's impressive acoustics. Ironically, that impressive sound reveals just how much ``building work'' music director Eduardo Mata needs to accomplish with his Dallas Symphony Orchestra. One concert was given over to the Kronos Quartet, which demonstrated that the space is extraordinary for small ensembles - intimate, clear, full of presence. The Kronos lived up to its reputation as a technically exceptional quartet. Yet this reviewer found most of the pieces exasperatingly similar. The quartet was allowed to program an amplified piece (Steve Reich's ``Different Trains''), which makes no sense if one is out to showcase a new hall's acoustics.

The gala opening featured Van Cliburn in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto - his second public performance in the United States since emerging from semi-retirement last June. Few pianists play with his sort of tone, his outpouring of volume, his control of the dynamic line, his feeling for the give-and-take of a line - all of which could be fully experienced in this piano-friendly hall. At its best, Cliburn's playing was exceptional, and he approached the concerto with unexpected anti-bravura introspection. It is good to have him back.

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Also on the program was Mahler's Second, subtitled ``Resurrection,'' especially symbolic for the Dallas Symphony, which had ceased operation in 1974 after years of financial turmoil, but is now a thriving institution. Mahler is not often done in Dallas, and the limited rehearsal time for this demanding score was shared with workmen's machinery. So perhaps it is uncharitable to observe that the orchestra sounded particularly rough and unglamorous.

THEY were in far better form for the Verdi Requiem, which received a sturdy, fleet reading from Mr. Mata. The Requiem soloists included mezzo-soprano Tatiana Troyanos in superb form, the stentorian bass Paul Plishka, as well as soprano Susan Dunn and tenor Richard Leech, both in uneven form. The Dallas Symphony Chorus contributed thrilling work here, as they had in the Mahler.

Mata has a big challenge ahead of him. He is greatly loved in Dallas. One hopes, for Dallas's sake, that he is really the man to make the orchestra worthy of its remarkable new home.

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