100 years YOUNG??? (Dallas Symphony and Bruckner)

When one tallies the affect and effect of 100 years’ time, we can clearly say “Wow; how things have changed!” as much as we can say “Wow; some things never change!”  My grandmother turns 100 this year.  She lived through two world wars, the Great Depression, enjoyed radio–but also saw the advent of television; she watched men travel to the moon and neighborhood boys go off to Vietnam; she was always aware of “the computer”, and witnessed the rise of something called “the internet”.  Yet even now she will tell you: “Only the spoon that stirs, knows the troubles that are in the pot!!…because some things never change!!!”  (It sounds even better in Italian, btw.)

After ‘The King of the Symphony”, Franz Joseph Haydn, was born (1732) we could look back 100 years later and claim that had he died as early as Mozart, he would not be regarded as widely as he is today.  The reason??  He did some of his best writing later in life.  100 years hence, we were gifted with the likes of Brahms and Bruckner, who similarly wrote works of masterpiece level in the latter portion of their lives.  But while the harmonic language changed considerably over the course of that century, ‘the symphony’ itself remained basically the same with regard to its construction (ie. “some things never change”).

After 100 years of existence (give or take of few hiccups along the road of life), the Dallas Symphony unveiled Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 last night (April 26, 2012) for the first of four performances.  Dallas Symphony audiences have not been graced with this work in 12 years, but what struck me the most during the roughly 75 minute performance of this 4 movement masterpiece was the affect and effect (there are those words again) the composition had on the audience.  Bruckner’s 8th is a work of intense power and beauty that often leaves an audience breathless in between movements, as it did at this performance.  There are ‘edge of seat’ moments and sudden shifts of sweeping legato that carry the listener along a musical wave the way a boat is glided along an ocean of powerful undercurrent.  Jaap van Zweden conducts with passion, but with such sublime dignity that one really does wonder what he is thinking as he leads his forces.  I guarantee you, he is NOT thinking about turning the pages of his score, the occasional rough entrance by the horns, or even the cool, swift elegance of his timpanist.  It is indeed something more, and his audiences level their support for him and his orchestra with instantaneous standing ovations.  Music’s greatness can, and always will, be measured in moments.  Music is of the moment, and is not a captive art; therefore I believe listeners should just ‘go with the flow’, as it will often take them to places they may have never realized even existed.

When one programs a single work for a night at the Symphony, it had better be good.  DSO did this successfully last season with a rendering of Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (see posting: “Death of a Symphony”???….Not so fast!!!).  It is a good strategy, as would also be a 7:30 p.m. start time.  This gives Symphony goers the chance to see a concert, have dinner or drinks thereafter, and TALK about what they have just seen and heard; thus extending and varying their night out.  This Bruckner was just such an opportunity, and I did just that with a friend after the performance.

Dallas arts donors and symphony supporters must realize that Mo. van Zweden brings world-class gravitas to the podium, and lifts this orchestra to world-class levels.  Dallas may be a huge sports town, but its arts district is also world-renowned.  Its musicians are, in fact, the athletes of this art-form and are deserving of respect and admiration.  I know something about world-class:  I grew up with The Cleveland Orchestra, under the likes of Szell, Maazel, and von Dohnanyi.  I have worked with Levine, Boulez, Conlan, Pappano, Davis, and countless others.  Dallas is not the cow-town of 100 years ago (or even 50 years ago by some accounts); you have it…please don’t lose it…you are 100 years YOUNG!!!


*Musical note:  As an opera singer, I love drawing comparisons between symphony and opera.  As many know, Bruckner was a huge disciple of Richard Wagner.  I simply had to smile as the final moments of Bruckner’s 8th seem to be a direct nod in the direction of Wagner himself, as the comparison to the final orchestral moments of Das Rheingold are simply unmistakeable!!!

24 Comments so far

  1. Tony G. April 27th, 2012 5:48 pm


  2. Antonia B. April 27th, 2012 11:06 pm

    Strong writing…persoanl and smart/

  3. Trish H. April 28th, 2012 12:55 am

    David, I have admired your work here in Dallas and saw the Ring Cycle in San Francisco. It is a true pleasure to also read your updates on your site. I think your critic’s hat is one that is well worth wearing! I don’t know too many singers who actually write in a ‘critical’ sense so admirably. Thank you.

  4. Conrad Y April 28th, 2012 12:56 am

    Well said.

  5. Ted S. April 28th, 2012 12:57 am

    well written article.

  6. David P. April 28th, 2012 5:57 am

    The intelligence with which you express yourself is nice to experience. Your site is very nice, and I love the descriptions in your photo section.

  7. DJ P. April 28th, 2012 6:24 am

    Mr Cangelosi: bravo on your many fine performances, but thank you especially for your gift of the written word. It is nice to see an active performer actually write about other performers with such passion and insight.

  8. Trin F. April 28th, 2012 7:29 am

    What’s great abou this article is that you have plenty of space to write aobut what you want.

  9. Max T. April 28th, 2012 7:35 am

    This was so well written and spot on. I love your suggestion that they should move the starting concert time to 7:30.

  10. Brad G. April 28th, 2012 7:45 am

    Read about this becaues of the one your wrote about the stadium.

  11. Dmitri Z. April 28th, 2012 8:59 am

    I love the way you write!!

  12. Paul LR. April 28th, 2012 9:35 am

    Dalls Symphony quotes you in theri materials.

  13. Kathy O. April 28th, 2012 11:59 am

    This was so fun too read.

  14. Sonderson K. April 28th, 2012 12:00 pm

    Have you been writing for a magazine or just for the internet blog?

  15. Chad I. April 28th, 2012 12:24 pm

    Great artical.

  16. Sara E. April 28th, 2012 12:28 pm

    I know its unfair, but in music school we instrumentalists were always told that singers were stupid; boy have you ever broken that mold! I have read several of your blog postings after reading this one on Bruckner. You are not only smart, but are so interesting as well. I love the way you wrap up each posting. Glad I found your site! My mother played with DSO a long time ago.

  17. Glenn M. April 28th, 2012 1:14 pm

    Wonderful writing.

  18. Bronwyn A. April 28th, 2012 1:56 pm

    Your descriptives are so very well appreciated.

  19. Sammy L. April 28th, 2012 4:04 pm

    How nicely written.

  20. Alton N. April 28th, 2012 4:12 pm

    Well written Mr. Cangelosi. I have really enjoyed reading your articles. First time I am leaving a comment.

  21. Reston Q. April 28th, 2012 4:34 pm

    I noticed that the Dallas Symphony blog picks up your commentary. I linked to your site from theirs so that I could read your full review. Do you write professionally in addition to your performing career?

  22. Josh V. April 28th, 2012 5:31 pm

    How clever of you to knit a relationship of 100 years to your family, the Dallas Symphony, and two centuries of classical composers!! I mean really clever indeed!!!

  23. Erin D. April 28th, 2012 6:45 pm

    Mr. Cangelosi; I read your article along with all the other critics on the subject of the Bruckner. I am happy to say that you are in as fine a class as they are with respect to your analysis–as a singer, you are seemingly well in touch with the instrumental as well.

  24. Bernita A. April 28th, 2012 7:16 pm

    How wonderful that you would recognize the symphony as much as you represent the operatic. Good for you, sir.

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