The Dallas Symphony Orchestra opens its Vail residency |

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra opens its Vail residency

HL Bravo! Dallas Symphony KA 06-30-10

VAIL, Colorado -By the time “Thunder and Lightning” came, the sun was actually out.

Not only does Jaap Van Zweden conduct the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, but he obviously checks the weather, too. Of course, the selection of Strauss’s “Thunder and Lightning” was made before the skies opened, the animals started filing into the ark and Bravo! concert goers swam to their seats for the first symphonic concert of the season Wednesday night at the Ford Amphitheater. But, then again, choosing the encore was a pretty good guess for a summer classical music concert in Vail.

News and notes from Dallas’ opening concert:

• I love the lawn and have watched many a Bravo! concert there, but yikes. Give it up to those hearty souls who watched from the grass Wednesday. Those are true classical music fans. They deserved the sun coming out for the second half of the program.

• When I’m not moonlighting as a classical music writer, I’m a sports editor and fan. As such, I hear a lot of playing of the national anthem. With the caveat that I admire any kid who stands up and sings “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a high school event, a symphony orchestra does the anthem the best – crisp, quick and without improvisation, the way it ought to be.

• It’s a small world: Wednesday’s opener was “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman,” written by Joan Tower. Tower also happens to be Bravo!’s composer in residence this year. She’s writing a piano quartet to be premiered July 20 at a chamber concert at the Vail Mountain School. She dedicated “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” to none other than Marin Alsop, who used to lead the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, no stranger in past years to Bravo!. Alsop, who went on to lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a very “uncommon” thing in the male world of conductors, returns to Bravo! July 14 to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra.

• Barber’s Violin Concerto, which was played by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, has controversy surrounding it. The juiciest story – though there is some dispute to its authenticity – is that Barber received a commission from Samuel Fels, a Philadelphia magnate, for $1,000 – a huge sum for a commission in 1939 – to write the piece for Iso Briselli, a classmate of Barber’s.

In this version of the story, after Barber gave the first two movements to Fels, the latter responded that the piece wasn’t enough of a showcase for Briselli’s skills. Barber’s response was essentially, “OK, let’s see if Briselli can play this,” and the third movement, rather incongruous to the first two, was born.

Briselli and his family to this day say that the third movement was presented as is and that they did not think it lived up to concerto standards. Either way, it’s good grist for the mill.

In an interview with Salerno-Sonnenberg early this week, she joked about the technical skills required for the third movement, calling it a “train wreck.” That said, she went on to say, “It’s interesting. I’ve played it for years and can’t imagine the concerto any other way. It now seems natural that the third movement follows the second after many decades of playing it.”

• Taking the Fifth: Beethoven’s Fifth was a good selection for an opening concert. For a newcomer to music, it’s welcoming. The motif which starts the symphony consists of the four-most recognizable notes in classical music. For the regular concert-goer, it’s like old home week.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard the Fifth. It’s on my monster iPod, but well actually thanks to iTunes, I can check that – Jan. 4, 2007. It had been a long time. Hearing it again was like seeing/hearing an old friend, every note still in place. (By the way, according to iTunes, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos is the most-played album on my iPod.)

• Not far behind is Brahms’ Second Symphony, which is on deck for Friday, along with Mozart’s Concerto in C Major for Flute, Harp and Orchestra. That would be the cue for Eugenia Zukerman.

• Looking ahead, we’ve got the Fourth of July concert at 2 p.m. I have nothing against Sousa. In fact, I’d make “The Thunderer,” “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Washington Post” mandatory for any Fourth of July concert. But my concert would have to include Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Charles Ives’s Second Symphony. We’ll see about that for next year.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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