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Making Dallas Even Better

The pianist Lucille Chung, making her DSO debut this upcoming season. Photo via her website.

Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s New Season Tests the Contemporary Symphonic Waters

Don’t call it adventurous, or a great leap forward, or a surge into the 21st century. But, for the first time in several years, the Dallas Symphony will take on a reasonable representation of repertoire by living composers.

As noted before in this space, a symphony orchestra worthy of the name has a primary responsibility of presenting selections from the recognized repertoire of masterpieces as well as a secondary responsibility of re-examining and rediscovering seldom-performed works from the past. And there’s a third responsibility, as important as the first: to renew and refresh the repertoire with works of living composers. While the Dallas Symphony has always performed admirably in the first function and reasonably well in the second, the orchestra and music director Jaap van Zweden have fallen far under par in the third function in recent seasons, with contemporary symphonic composition all but absent from the classical subscription series.

For the 2014-15 season, announced Sunday, the orchestra will, however, present works of two well-known American composers (Mason Bates and Christopher Rouse), the prominent German composer Wolfgang Rihm, and, intriguingly, the Piano Concerto No. 1 of Dallas teenager Chase Dobson, which will be performed by Canadian pianist Lucille Chung in concerts March 13-15 under the baton of guest conductor Case Scaglione, who is associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

Concert-goers will experience a few changes in how they experience their fare of classics, as well. The past practice of repeating every concert on Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees for most of those weekends will be cut back on several weekends of the year, with a number of weekends dropping down from three evenings to two evenings only, and several weekends with no Sunday matinee. All evening concerts will now begin at 7:30 p.m. rather than at 8 p.m.


While the Dallas Symphony eases shyly into contemporary symphonic music, their next-door neighbors at Dallas Opera will be holding up a respectable record for innovation with the premiere of British composer Joby Talbot’s Everest scheduled for January of 2015 on a double bill with the final act of Catalani’s La Wally, a seldom-performed late romantic work.

The five-production season will also include another seldom-performed nineteenth-century opera, Tchaikovsky’s Iolanthe, , along with reliable favorites by Mozart (The Marriage of Figaro), Puccini (La Boheme), and Richard Strauss (Salome). This gives the regional opera audience a reasonable mixture of the familiar, the unfamiliar, and the new. Looking even further ahead, Dallas Opera has already announced world premieres from Jake Heggie, the composer of Moby Dick, and Mark Adamo for the 2015-16 season.

Ed note: The last paragraph has been revised to reflect the inclusion of Salome.