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Dallas Symphony Orchestra opens Bravo! despite weather

VAIL – With apologies to the United States Postal Service, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from completing its Beethoven.

Wednesday night’s symphonic opener to the 2011 Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival was a memorable one. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Jaap Van Zweden, fought off the wind-driven rain and an 11-minute weather delay, likely the first in the festival’s history, to complete Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in front of a very appreciative crowd huddled within the Ford Amphitheater.

“A spectacular evening,” said Hal Brierley, who sits on the executive board of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, after the concert. “We’re from Dallas and Jaap Van Zweden is one of the great music directors in the world right now and there is nothing more exciting than a summer concert. The rain brings that extra little touch. The symphony performed beautifully.”

Rain is nothing new to Bravo!, the Ford Amphitheater and the Dallas Symphony. In fact, one of the longest running puns associated with the festival is that “the Dallas Symphony is the raining orchestra of Bravo!” Last year, the DSO opened Bravo! in a deluge and had the collective sense of humor to perform Strauss’s “Thunder and Lightning” as an encore.

The Ford Amphitheater is equipped for the summer rain, but as the DSO started Beethoven’s Seventh, performers and spectators experienced a kaleidoscope of Colorado weather with a rainbow to the east, along with thunder, wind and rain from that direction.

While clipped-down scores of music are a staple of the summer music festival, Wednesday was a rare time for Bravo where the wind blew the rain east and onto the stage – the way the amphitheater was built provides some natural protection from the traditional western wind pattern of the area.

At one point during the first movement of the Seventh, Van Zweden looked up from his conducting duties with a somewhat-whimsical look on his face, reacting to the weather. Meanwhile, members of the orchestra were shielding their instruments as best they could.

It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “standard-issue violin” for performers of a major symphony. All of the instruments are unique, usually antiques, which could be damaged by rain.

After the first movement of the Seventh, Van Zweden announced to the audience, “Let’s hope this goes by. We’ll wait a second. We won’t want to ruin the instruments.”

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra played the second movement and then wisely paused for 11 minutes for a respite. The orchestra returned to the stage to applause and Van Zweden wasted no time in having the musicians start up the third movement.

In a fortuitous development, the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Seventh are marked presto and allegro con brio, musical terms for the composition to be played quickly. Van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra observed those instructions from Beethoven without rushing to the conclusion.

“Coming to the mountains is one of the great treats for the orchestra. If you’re in Dallas and it’s 102 degrees, my guess is that is that a little bit of a threat of rain is tolerable,” Brierly joked.

The Seventh Symphony completed an all-Beethoven program Wednesday night at Bravo!. After the playing of the national anthem, a symphonic tradition for an orchestra opening a season or a residency, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra began the night with the “Egmont Overture,” most appropriate for the start of Vail’s six-week classical music festival with its beginning deep chords and ensuing fanfare.

Before intermission, Ida Kavafian on the violin, Peter Wiley on the cello and pianist Anne-Marie-McDermott, who also serves as the festival’s artistic director, took center stage with a soulful rendition of the “Triple Concerto.”

Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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