Updated: Jul 17
Review by Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News:
Impressive new chamber orchestra, piano trio open Basically Beethoven Festival
The Metamorphosis Dallas Chamber Orchestra and Yolutra Trio were both excellent.
With any luck, the new Metamorphosis Dallas Chamber Orchestra will become a vital, ongoing presence on the North Texas classical music scene. In its debut concert Sunday afternoon at Moody Performance Hall, the conductorless group performed with skill and suavity in an audience pleasing program of Saint- Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and Copland’s Appalachian Spring Suite.
It was the opening concert in the 2023 Basically Beethoven Festival, produced by the umbrella organization known as the Fine Arts Chamber Players. In addition to featured ensembles, festival concerts include prelude performances by “Rising Stars,” in this case the impressive young Yolutra Trio.
In the Saint-Saëns, having clarinetist Jonathan Jones walk all around the audience while playing the cuckoo’s two-note call was a plausible gimmick. But in the “Pianists” movement, even with authorization in the score, the two players totally overdid deliberate screwups.
Those reservations aside, the 10 instrumentalists — among them musicians from the Dallas and Fort Worth symphonies and Dallas Opera Orchestra — played with precision and pizzazz. Even without a conductor, I think only one chord didn’t land quite together. Special praise goes to pianists Michael Bukhman and Igor Parshin (apart from their one misjudgment), cellist Joseph Kuipers (for a lovely “Swan”) and bassist Caleb Quillen (for an authoritative “Elephant”).
Terry D. Loftis was the animated narrator, although he might have spoken a little more slowly in the lively acoustic. If the amusing narration that supplanted the familiar Ogden Nash verses was identified in the program, I didn’t see it.
The Copland was performed in the suite the composer compressed from the original score for Martha Graham’s ballet, preserving the original instrumentation for 13 players.
A conductor might have inspired more magic and urgency in the opening, which here pretty much marked time, and winds were sometimes too aggressive in balances. Otherwise, the music sounded as fresh and fetching as it must have at its 1944 premiere.
In the prelude recital, the Yolutra Trio — Ella Tran, piano; Steven Lu, violin; and Danielle Yoon, cello — performed only individual movements from two piano trios. They began with as deeply felt and warmly shaped a first movement of the Brahms B major (Op. 8) as you’ll hear anywhere. I wished only for a little more reserve at times from the piano, and more projection of cello tone. The third movement (Allegro vivace) of the 20th-century Armenian composer Arno Babadjanian’s F-sharp minor Piano Trio couldn’t have been more different. Its rugged, rowdy music was brilliantly dispatched, without slighting lyric episodes.
Some suggestions: 1. Spare us the recorded background music — Rachmaninoff piano pieces in this case — before the concert and at intermission. That’s sonic pollution. 2. Less talking from the stage, please. 3. Supply a little more light for reading the program (copies of which seemed in short supply Sunday). And 4. With all the other verbiage in the program, it was a shame not to print the sections of the Copland, and their storytelling significance.