Cantrell is the distinguished long-time classical music critic of the Dallas
Morning News. He recently wrote an article titled “Let’s go easier on those fortissimos” (January 31, 2014) in which he criticized Jaap van Zweden and the
Dallas Symphony (DSO) for excessive volume in music by Brahms (Piano Concerto
No. 2/Symphony No. 4) and Dvorak (New World Symphony).
agree with Mr. Cantrell’s general point that volume levels in music performance
have become excessive. Much of the blame for this phenomenon must go to
technology; electronically amplified instruments can produce literally
ear-splitting volume. With respect to his particular complaint about volume
levels in recent DSO concerts at the Meyerson Symphony Center, however, I beg to differ. While I
was not present for any of the concerts he is talking about, I have been in the
Meyerson often enough to have well-informed opinions about the hall, the
orchestra and the conductor.
all, Mr. Cantrell is factually incorrect in saying that "those Brahms and
Dvorak scores from the late 19th century have no dynamic marking louder than
the traditional fortissimo." For the record, the Dvorak New World Symphony
has many fff markings.
the two pieces which mainly concern him - the New World Symphony and the Brahms
Piano Concerto No. 2 - have different orchestration: there are no trombones in
the Brahms and the two trumpets and timpani are used very sparingly. I can't
imagine the climaxes in the Brahms "turbocharged to blasts better
suited to Shostakovich." The Dvorak is scored for a bigger orchestra and
the composer is obviously aiming for bigger climaxes than was Brahms in the B
from the factual issues and the differences between the two pieces, and while it
is historically true that orchestras have gotten louder over the past 200
years, Mr. Cantrell's comments fail to take into account two other major
factors: the halls orchestras play in have gotten larger, and orchestras have
got to produce more sound to fill them.
accommodate changes in the size of concert halls, some instruments have become
more powerful, and for performances in larger halls the number of players is
sometimes increased as well – all of which makes sense. It is absurd to present
a string quartet performance in Carnegie Hall - although it is often done today
if the market will bear it - and it is just as ludicrous to present so-called
"historically-informed" performances in such large halls.
while Mr. Cantrell often raves about what Jaap van Zweden has achieved in
Dallas, in this article he turns intensity - one of van Zweden's greatest
strengths - into a negative. Van Zweden is an intense conductor and has the
ability to get that intensity from his players. If van Zweden can get
"white-hot intensities" from the DSO strings in Brahms' Fourth
Symphony, more power to him. That kind of music-making is what makes concert-going
Labels: brahms, Concert_Review, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dvorak, Jaap van Zweden, Meyerson Symphony Center, Scott Cantrell, 고전 음악, クラシック, 古典音乐, 古典音樂, 音楽