Christian Reif receives top praise for Dallas Symphony debut

Christian Reif receives top praise for Dallas Symphony debut

Christian Reif leads the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on their 2019/20 Gala program (Photo credit: Sylvia Elzafon / Dallas Symphony Orchestra)

Violinist Joshua Bell joins conductor Christian Reif and the DSO for a gala concert — with festivities fore and aft
By Scott Cantrell
The Dallas Morning News
September 29, 2019

Wow.

Saturday night’s Dallas Symphony Orchestra gala concert, with violinist Joshua Bell as headliner, was one of those you feel lucky to have experienced.

The annual gala, an important fundraiser for the orchestra, can seem as much about the surrounding festivities as the actual performance. Patrons pay extra for pre-concert cocktails in the vast Meyerson Symphony Center lobby and an elegant dinner produced by the in-house Culinaire food service. There’s also a post-concert “experience” including desserts, more drinks and dancing. (My dancing days are past, and, besides, writing duties called.)

Sure enough, Dallas swells turned out in force for the pre- and post-concert festivities Saturday evening, in tuxes and glamorous dresses. It was a great place to see and be seen. But music lovers who hadn’t ponied up the extra contributions could enjoy just the concert at more normal ticket prices.

What a concert it was! Bell, booked for a different program Thursday and Sunday, delivered the apparently effortless virtuosity you’d expect, plus elegant shapings and detailings, in the Brahms Violin Concerto. He supplied his own surprisingly delicate first-movement cadenza. But no less a star of the two-work gala program was the young German conductor Christian Reif.

Right from the start of Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3 it was evident that something special was going on. Actually, lots of special things were happening.

Both here and in the Brahms, Reif fastidiously scaled and tapered dynamics, from super-hushed pianissimos charged with electricity to fortissimos that thrilled without ever overpowering. The decrescendos were as riveting as the crescendos.

And Reif had a visceral feeling for the rise and fall of phrases, for the moments that wanted to be subtly pressed forward, others that wanted a little stretching. He always knew just when and how much — sometimes daringly — to delay pivotal downbeats.

These were both gripping performances perfectly balancing Dionysian and Apollonian impulses, passionate yet finely plotted and detailed. The orchestra played gloriously, with particularly eloquent solos from flutist David Buck and oboist Erin Hannigan. After a rough night Thursday, the horns played beautifully, too.

Before the concert’s start, DSO board chair Sanjiv Yajnik spoke winningly of the physiological and emotional powers of music. Bell, Reif and the orchestra certainly demonstrated them. Here’s hoping Reif returns early and often as a guest conductor.

Read the full article here.