The Dallas Symphony Orchestra romanced the stage with their Valentines’ weekend presentation of Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
The sensational event celebrating love was told through a poignant sonata narrative. Former Assistant Conductor of the DSO Ruth Reinhardt led the ensemble, beautifully shaping each composer’s genius with passion, poise and animation, as if the baton was an extension of her own passion.
The Shakespearean classic closed the evening, but first we were treated to other love-inspired pieces: Smetana’s “Overture to the Bartered Bride,” Martinů’s Symphony No. 4 and Jerod Tate’s “Ghost of the White Deer,” the magnum opus of the event.
Commencing the event was Smetana’s sprightly “Bartered Bride,” an impactful contribution to Czech music, incorporating folk, polka and Bohemian motifs. Premiering in 1866, the opera continues to delight with its comic backdrop of true love prevailing despite adversity, and excites with its lively instrumentation.
Next, Martinů’s Symphony No. 4 erupted on stage. Dedicated to his friends, the composer was inspired by love, nonetheless. The first movement began with a metallic dissonance that oscillated with subtler, gentler melodies. The second movement featured more robust percussion and a rhythmically irregular leading tune. The third highlighted heavenly strings and sustained runs from the woodwinds with softer brass for a slower, lyrical change of pace. The dream-like state was interrupted by the return of the original melody, now slightly reworked in the final movement for a faster, more demanding tempo. All musicians combined in an electrically charged tutti, making for a riveting finale.
Gracing the stage in a global premiere was the breathtaking performance of “Ghost of the White Deer,” a bassoon concerto by classical Chickasaw composer, and Oklahoma native, Jerod Tate. Composed and dedicated to principal bassoonist of the DSO, Ted Soluri, the entire composition was spearheaded by Soluri’s expressive instrumentation, palpable emotional presence, and agile fingers, as well as copious amounts of air for each refrain and intricate run.
“Ghost of the White Deer” is an inventive tour de force commemorating a bittersweet love story based on the legend of two young Chickasaw Indians – a brave warrior, Blue Jay, and the daughter of a chief, Bright Moon. To win over his daughter, the chief asks for the rare hide of the White Deer, leading Blue Jay on a harrowing journey, armed with his bow and sharpest arrows.
The symphony opens with the low rumble of drums, the tenor of thunder before a storm, preceding the entrance of layered voices in the shadowed deep of the woods. A staccato punctuation from percussion, woodwinds, strings and brass announces a turn of events– perhaps the hunter has spotted the White Deer. In answer, the brass creates a walking bassline as menacing as the pounding pursuit of a hungry beast; the hunt has begun.
Soluri mesmerized with velvety, warm-timbred sounds, complementing the story and moving orchestration, yet, in an instant would lift effortlessly skyward with delicate vibrato. Woodwinds whistled to shrill heights, like birds aflight fleeing impending doom. Horns blared and strings retained the foreboding threat.
In a vibrant crescendo, the original melody resurrected while Soluri’s fingers flew over his keys, swelling to an urgent zenith punctuated by piercing bangs played in unison by the entire ensemble, executed with the same power and finality as the death blow from a flying arrow. The biggest standing ovation of the night followed, with cheers and even louder surges of applause for Soluri, Reinhardt, and the composer himself.
Finishing the enchanting DSO line-up was Tchaikovsky’s “Fantasy-Overture after Shakespeare,” inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and often regarded as his first masterpiece. Tchaikovsky’s work displays the same musical storytelling, starting with solemn chords representative of Friar Lawrence’s calm presence. Then, tensions build; the fight between Capulets and Montagues comes bellowing in an aggressive cacophony. The beloved theme often emblematic of the entire work and representative of the ill-fated couple’s everlasting love, begins delicately with English horn and violas. It later resurfaces, now played by the strings, but in a more melancholic key, foreshadowing the tragic climax.
For Valentines, the DSO showcased love’s darker facets, subverting flowery romance with a provoking selection of resonant masterpieces, proving it is dedicated “to inspire and change lives through musical excellence.”
Cover photo courtesy Dallas Symphony Orchestra
N.L.Thi-Hamrick, devoted to all things that bring joy: good food, writing freely, lots of smiles, and pursuing things that make you feel worthwhile.