Another lazy Sunday, and another trip to the Dallas Symphony. Hard to beat that. The program was as follows:
JAAP VAN ZWEDEN conducts
ALEXANDER KERR violin
PROKOFIEV – Concerto No. 1 in D major for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 19
BRAHMS – Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73
As much as I love to delve into classical music, I must admit that I’m not overly familiar with the works of either Prokofiev or Brahms. Familiar, yes, but not overly so. A symphonic performance is ever an excellent opportunity to actively listen, to make new discoveries.
Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 1 originally premiered in failure. It was overshadowed by Stravinsky’s Octet after being delayed nearly seven years after its completion due to the difficulty of finding a soloist who would play “that music.” I understand that many of Prokofiev’s pieces are difficult to understand, appreciate, and perform, but I didn’t find this one nearly so. Perhaps I’m merely getting more accustomed to dissonance in music, or perhaps there wasn’t as much there to be had. I believe this to be the latter case, especially be weight of comparison. Our soloist, virtuoso Alexander Kerr, performed an encore with the DSO’s concertmaster, Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins, Op. 56, the Allegro second movement. That was dissonant. It was also tense as tense could be. I found myself drawing a line from it directly to Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s Psycho. Both pieces were intricately performed, and it was satisfying to hear them played off one another as a contrast.
The dissonance turned out to set the stage for the highly melodic featured work, Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. I was intrigued with his development of his “lullaby” theme from 11 years previous. Comparisons with Beethoven’s 6th are often drawn, but in spite of the cheery mood, Brahms wrote to his publisher that the piece is “so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it. I have never written anything so sad, and the score must come out in mourning.” I have to take the composer’s word for it. The brooding doesn’t really happen until the second movement.
All in all, a spectacular and quite relaxing concert all around. I need more time to process it, perhaps, due to my lack of familiarity with the pieces. And that’s no bad thing.