Most orchestras, including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, tend to follow the instrument layout established by Leopold Stokowski in the 1930s, which places the first and second violins on the right and the violas and cellos on the left.
Stokowski’s innovation optimized sound quality and distinguished melody from accompaniment within the recording setting, proving more versatile as new concert hall designs increasingly experimented with acoustic properties. Although its layout has since been accepted as the standard, the old traditional formation is still preferred by many conductors, no doubt for its balancing effect in distinguishing the texture nuances of each part during a performance. live.
Marc Albrecht is one of these conductors. Conducting the DSO at the Meyerson Symphony Center on Thursday evening in a program of works by Shostakovich and Strauss, he demonstrated the aural benefits of the previous layout tradition: violins split left and right, with violas respectively, cellos and basses. While colors and textures were beautifully balanced for most of the gig, rhythmic cohesion suffered at times.
In solidarity with Ukraine, the concert opened with a late addition by Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk Melody, arranged for string quartet. Dark and moving, it was skillfully performed by DSO concertmaster Alexander Kerr and principals violinist Angela Heyde, violist Meredith Kufchak and cellist Christopher Adkins.
Unsuk Chin’s 2019 Frontispiece followed, receiving its premiere in Dallas. Commissioned by the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, it is a varied work combining fragments from various composers and their distinctive styles in an intelligent reinterpretation that conveys the evolution of music throughout history. In it, the colors crash into each other and then blend beautifully. Under Albrecht, the DSO served up a smartly executed performance.
Shostakovsky’s Cello Concerto No. 1, composed in 1959, brought the virtuosity and solo expression of guest artist Daniel Müller-Schott. The four-note musical transliteration of the composer’s four-note musical motif “DSCH” serves as the setting for the opening theme, which characterizes all but the second movement.
Albrecht managed a smooth, shimmering blend of sonic textures from the chamber orchestra accompaniment, however, the meter shifts and rapid tempo passages were less than tight in coordination with the soloist.
Müller-Schott’s exposition of the material was passionate and muscular in cadenza—a movement reserved for the soloist’s presentation exclusively on variations of the “DSCH” motif. The Moderato was dark and even-tempered, with a low opening and dynamic accompaniment of the winds. The ghostly transition in the third movement, played attaca, has been augmented with lovely flowery celestial tones.
Again, there were moments that felt rhythmically disjointed between soloist and ensemble, especially in the pizzicato passages of the frenetic finale. Acting Principal Horn David Heyde delivered confident announcement statements equal in ease to Müller-Schott.
The second half of the concert was devoted to Strauss Domestic Symphony. In this 45-minute sound poem, Strauss – a champion of programmatic music – reinvents himself, marries Pauline and their young son Franz as musical motifs to paint a world reflecting his bourgeois lifestyle. The four-movement work depicts his family life – the bliss and strains of a marital partnership, the flurry of a baby, striking dreamscapes and the playfulness of youth. It is scored for large orchestra, with each element presented with a double-reed oboe and saxophones.
While parts of the sequence were played too loudly, the commitment to drama and storytelling was never lost under Albrecht’s smooth direction. The family brawl, frenetic and full of energy, was punchy and invigorating, while the light passages illustrating the mischief of the young boy were light and bouncy.
The half-dozen fake endings were executed with a joviality that proved infectious, as evidenced by the muffled laughter from the audience. And thought the “joyful confusion” of the finale was cacophonous at times, an impossibly bright finish punctuated an otherwise solid night’s play.
A crisp and remarkable clarity of string tones provided by this orchestral arrangement characterized the program with a brilliance worthy of Meyerson’s acoustic design. However, the DSO may require more performances in this alignment to refine the overall cohesion and rhythmic tension.
The program will repeat at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 3 p.m. on Sunday. dallassymphony.org