Review: Dallas Symphony program of Price, Kay, Gershwin, and Bernstein, led by Thomas Wilkins

Posted on: April 26, 2022

“Well, that was a fun concert,” writes Scott Cantrell in Saturday’s (4/23) Dallas Morning News. “The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Friday night program … with guest conductor Thomas Wilkins, … validated … Dvořák’s suggestion that vernacular music of Black Americans might be an inspiration for concert music to come. And, gosh, the orchestra sounded fabulous…. Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes shared Friday’s program with another Black composer, Ulysses Kay, and two white composers … George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein…. Dances in the Canebrakes [is] a gloss on imagined dances of Black workers after hard days of clearing bamboo-like cane to make room for growing cotton. Movements titled ‘Nimble Feet,’ ‘Tropical Noon’ and ‘Silk Hat and Walking Cane’ offer an appealing mix…. The Overture from Kay’s three-movement Theatre Set suggested backstage chaos before a curtain’s rise, but the jagged rhythms and busy textures were virtuosically assembled.… The Symphonic Dances and ‘America’ from West Side Story … by turns swaggering and spooky, threatening and tender … remains music of dazzling brilliance. In a program that could tempt a conductor into balletic excess, Wilkins was a model of graceful restraint, giving the orchestra just what it needed and no more, and his spoken comments were delightful.”