A Soluna chamber music concert presents DSO musicians in Mendelssohn and Golijov – Dallas News

One of the thrusts of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna Festival has been presenting DSO musicians in chamber ensembles. These concerts are showcases for excellent individual talents in the orchestra, and they give players chances to interact without a conductor making all musical decisions. They’ve also explored repertory less likely to be heard in the area’s established chamber music series.

So it was with a Tuesday night concert at the Dallas City Performance Hall, one that also lived up to the festival’s international adjective. It paired works by a familiar 19th-century German composer, Mendelssohn, and a 21st-century Argentinian, resident in the US, Osvaldo Golijov.

Golijov, born in 1960, grew up in a Jewish family, and his music often echoes and transmutes his Jewish musical heritage. This is certainly true of his 1994 Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, an extended work for clarinet and string quartet.

The eponymous Isaac was a turn-of-the-13th-century Provençal Jewish mystic, although his influence on this piece is hardly clear from the composer’s arcane program note. Golijov does say that he hears the work’s prelude, three movements and postlude as reflecting, in turn, the three languages of Jewish history: Aramaic, Yiddish and Hebrew.

At least in this performance, 37 minutes long, the movements were not clearly defined. The influence of the Jewish folk music known as klezmer and of sometimes highly ornamental liturgical chants certainly suffuses the piece. The former makes for highly emotional expression, and some earthy dance music. 

Alternating among three clarinets of different pitches, DSO principal clarinetist Gregory Raden ranged from  deep sustained pitches to loud shrieks on high, with some slides between pitches. It was surprising to hear such sounds from Raden, normally the most elegant of clarinetists, but he was the hot core of an impassioned performance also including DSO violinists Nathan Olson and Alexander Kerr, violist Ann Marie Brink and cellist Abraham Feder.

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