Saturday, April 20, 2019 Dallas Symphony Performs "Poem" by William Grant Still

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

By Wayne Lee Gay

Fri, Apr 19, 2019

Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director designate Fabio Luisi will step onto the podium as the orchestra’s fulltime music director orchestra in the fall of 2020. This weekend, however, he reintroduces himself to the orchestra and the audience with a set of two non-subscription concerts at Meyerson Symphony Center, the first of which took place Thursday night. The program was clearly designed to demonstrate Luisi’s range and personality as a conductor, including a touch of unexpected musical eclecticism.

Italian-born Luisi, largely known as a conductor of opera, opened with a quintessentially American work. Mississippi-born William Grant Still created a link from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s to the classical music establishment with a body of work folding a sense of the depth of the African American experience into late romantic orchestral style.

His 15-minute Poem from 1944 draws on lavish, Brucknerian orchestration and late romantic chromaticism, but with a melodicism clearly inspired by African American spirituals; Luisi, with an elegantly efficient and precise podium presence created a convincingly rhapsodic aura—and gave Dallas music lovers a glimpse of a unique segment of America’s musical heritage.

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