REVIEW: Dallas Symphony President JFK Memorial Concert

November 22, 2013

Dallas Symphony Orchestra

President John F. Kennedy Memorial Concert

Live music is alive and well in the Heart of Texas

by Mike Dawson

Composer Conrad Tao (Photo courtesy Dallas Morning News)

Music brings a range of emotions and reflections to the Meyerson Concert Hall tonight with the World Premiere of the orchestral work “The World Is Very Different Now” by composer Conrad Tao. The President John F. Kennedy Memorial Concert by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra was a sold out performance. Creating a musical work to mark the 50th Anniversary of the “most traumatic historical event” of our time certainly challenged Mr. Tao. However, Tao succeeded in creating a musical tone poem that captured the emotions of the horrific event while balancing that horror with intervals of inner reflection and life’s fragility.

Conrad Tao’s single movement piece was accompanied by a synchronized film produced by Van Ingen Media Productions. This group of video artists, cinematographers and archival image researchers managed to integrate a visual document that supported the music and not distract the reality of the Memorial.

As I sat in the second row I witnessed the Dallas Symphony Orchestra rise to the occasion to perform a completely unknown work. Conrad Tao was not even alive when JFK was assassinated but his music inspired the orchestra to perform with a heightened sense of sensitivity to historical moments past and present.

Following the World Premiere was the Jean Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor performed by Joshua Bell. He took the emotion generated from Tao’s music and transported the audience to the heart of Sibelius’ Finland. I watched Bell grab the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jaap van Zweden and commence to play as one creature with enormous dynamic range and just the right amount of rubato. After the Allegro ma non tonto of the D minor Concerto the crowd jumped to its feet and cheered Joshua Bell and the Dallas Symphony. Bell is one of the great violinists of our time. Fantastic.

The DSO also performed the “Murder of a Great Chief of State” by Milhaud and Beethoven Symphony No. 3, “Eroica” - The only thing I will point out that somebody in the box seats kept dropping a pig weight or something at the worst time (during a rest) - well, at least it wasn’t a cell phone playing a jingle. I loved the “Eroica” performance and on such a night like tonight I will forgive a couple of oops moments. Live music is alive and well and brings a little healing to the Heart of Texas tonight.