Review: Gemma New, Augustin Hadelich and Dallas Symphony refresh Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky
By Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News
April 23, 2021
How do you make the most standard symphonic repertory sound fresh without falsifying it?
Thursday night’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra concert proved that it can be done. With principal guest conductor Gemma New in charge, with violin soloist Augustin Hadelich, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was full of surprises, most of them very good. Completing the program was a smart, suave account of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite.
One surprise was that the Tchaikovsky worked perfectly well with the DSO’s current chamber-orchestra adaptation, with reduced string sections. In the rich acoustics of the Meyerson Symphony Center, there was certainly no sense of inadequate orchestral sound…
One of the finest violinists around these days, Hadelich once again displayed gleaming tone and brilliant technique. But more impressive was his commitment to musical subtleties, and his willingness to take chances to that end.
Too many performances just go from mezzo-forte to triple forte, but Hadelich paid special attention to quieter nuances. Fortes didn’t get turbocharged into fortissimos. Saving the big guns for just the right moments heightened their dramatic impacts.
He didn’t hesitate to take extra time over more ruminative passages, stretching structural threads without breaking them. He made the first-movement cadenza less an empty showpiece than an improvisational exploration.
New and the orchestra did an impressive job of matching Hadelich’s gentle flights of fantasy, but also… with his dazzling virtuosity in the finale. Well-deserved bravos were rewarded not with the usual Bach or Paganini encore, but with the sultry Louisiana Blues Strut, by the late American composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson.
Coming after Stravinsky’s early ballet scores inspired by Russian folklore — The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring — Pulcinella marked a stylistic turning point. For this commedia dell’arte ballet, Stravinsky tarted up tunes then attributed (erroneously) to the 18th-century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Works that followed evinced a new structural and textural clarity and rhythmic vigor that came to be called neoclassicism.
Pulcinella is Stravinsky at his wittiest and most playful, and this certainly came across in New’s account of the suite drawn from the complete ballet score. This was a performance vigorous where it should be, gently piquant elsewhere, with particularly fine solo contributions from concertmaster Alexander Kerr, oboist Erin Hannigan, trumpeter L. Russell Campbell and trombonist Barry Hearn.
To read the full review, click here.