Friday, July 16, 2010

The Michael Jordan of the Symphony World

A while back, I received a phone call from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Vice President of Marketing. He wanted me to attend a press conference that would introduce their new conductor, Jaap van Zweden.

So I dusted off the suit, shined my shoes and went on my merry way to the Meyerson Symphony Center to see what all the hubbub was about.

As with any first impression, it was hard for me to get a feel for what this guy was like. They asked him a bunch of questions and in a very thick Dutch accent, he answered as best he could. The best question and the question that would make me feel like this is a guy I could hang out with was when they ask him if he liked barbecue. He was completely lost with the question and had to turn to someone at the table to get some clarity. His response nearly made me fall out of my chair in laughter as he replied in his thick accent, “Oh, I like the steak”.

It would not be for a while until I would be able to catch him in concert. And when I did, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in my life.

Now lets be honest. I’m about as cultured as a fishing guide. So for me to be absolutely blown away by a conductor has significant meaning. And it wasn’t just Jaap that pushed the envelope on the stage that evening.

In 1987, there was a Jack Nicholson movie called “The Witches of Eastwick” that starred Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer. In one part of the flick, Jack, who plays the devil, pulls out every bit of passion within Susan Sarandon as she plays the cello. This is what I saw that night. The devil himself squeezing every bit of musical emotion out of every musician on that stage.

Like a possessed Angus Young flicking guitar picks to the audience, they might as well start throwing thrashed bows to the crowd. If you’ve ever seen a bow that’s been well used, the horse hair becomes mangled after a couple of days. I would imagine that just about every bow Jaap pulls back and forth in the hands of another musician would need to be rehaired after each performance.

So if you’re looking for something to do with your spouse in the coming months and Jaap van Zweden is in the house, I would highly recommend catching him in action. And “action” is really not a strong enough word that captures what he delivers on stage. He is truly the Michael Jordan of the symphony world.
For tickets, visit:

Peace out -

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