Review: DSSO responds well to guest conductor MeyerWhile “Dazzling Endings” was the theme for the Saturday night concert by the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, the show opened with a “beginning.”
By: Samuel Black, for the News Tribune
While “Dazzling Endings” was the theme for the Saturday night concert by the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, the show opened with a “beginning.”
Conductor candidate Dirk Meyer, currently leading orchestras in Sarasota and Orlando, Fla., chose the “Overture to the Marriage of Figaro,” K. 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to blaze his path across Duluth.
He never looked back. His tempo for the Mozart was on the edge, and the DSSO kept right with him all the way. After only four short minutes, it was obvious that Meyer had every orchestral eye focused on him.
Interestingly, after the concert, Meyer shared that the DSSO seemed to respond to his intentions more quickly than some other orchestras he has directed. The rapport was definitely working both ways. With his baton in constant motion and his eyes rapidly moving from the music to the players, Meyer set a high standard for performance communication.
Appropriately, he allowed DSSO Concertmaster Erin Aldridge to dominate center stage with a performance of the “Concerto for Violin in D major,” Op. 61, by Ludwig van Beethoven. For the most part, this is the most understated of all the great violin concertos. The sheer delicacy of the violin part and the sensitive partnership of the orchestral team were simply exquisite.
I am still amazed how Aldridge can get so much tone from notes at the upper end of the fingerboard. And while Beethoven is mature here but not flashy, Aldridge chose to share first and third movement “cadenzas,” or sparkling fireworks, created by Fritz Kreisler, the showman virtuoso from the mid-20th century.
After a standing ovation, Aldridge invited principal cellist Betsy Husby to join her in a gypsy-like rendition of the “Passacaglia based on a Theme by Handel,” by Johan Halvorsen. This duo requires drama from each player, and both Husby and Aldridge kept pushing each other to even greater intensity, causing the audience to applaud well into their intermission.
Meyer’s third choice for this concert was the “Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major,” Op. 100, by Sergei Prokofiev. Since 1944, this was only the fourth time Duluth audiences have heard this live, and it was the first public performance of this work by Maestro Meyer.
Four movements and 45 minutes later, the DSSO had probably even surprised themselves. The lyricism of the opening, and later in the adagio, was deeply heartfelt. The folk dances of the second movement were filled with Russian images. But the crown of the evening was the last third of the fourth movement, which bristled with clarity, blending hymns and fireworks into one great jubilant explosion of sound.
The dynamic highs and lows of the slow movement were more expressive than I have ever heard from the DSSO, so Meyer’s expressions and gestures must have been the key. His own enthusiasm was present at every moment, and the energy flowing out across the audience seemed to embrace the power of Prokofiev’s very Russian vision.
In this candidate-filled season, Meyer will be back for the “Old Turtle” performance in March, but the next candidate, Mariusz Smolij, will be on the podium with DSSO and chorus Nov. 19.
Samuel Black is pianist with the Duluth-based Gichigami Trio and reviews musical events for the News Tribune.