Saturday evening marked the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s premiere of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Major and the world premiere of David Del Tredici’s Alice in Wonderland-inspired Dum Dee Tweedle from Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass.
The two pieces, completely different in style, instrumentation and length, created an undeniably diverse offering of sounds for audience members Saturday evening (8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (3 p.m.) at Orchestra Hall. The performances, conducted by Maestro Leonard Slatkin, also featured vocal accompaniments by the Wayne State University Symphonic Choir (directed by Dr. Norah Duncan IV) five soloists and a narrator.
Mozart’s Violin Concerto in D Major highlighted the unwavering talents of the orchestra’s concertmaster, and leader of the string section, Yooshin Song. The strong communication between Song and Maestro Leonard Slatkin was apparent, as soloist opportunities showcased Song’s 300-year-old instrument and her precision as a violinist.
Mozart’s 21-minute concerto offered audiences regal frills and embellishments, which have become synonymous with his compositions. Song’s tenacity at the strings of her 1707 Vincenzo Rugeri violin, loaned by a Michigan collector, was met with a standing applause.
Following the symphony’s intermission, Alexandra Silber, an American vocalist and actress, began the narration of David Del Tredici’s Dum Dee Tweedle, a Through the Looking Glass tribute focused on the infamous twins Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. The cryptic and chaotic tone of vocalists Hila Plitmann, Re’ut Ben-Ze’ev, Scott Ramsay and Michael Kelly created a dizzying exchange between Alice and the riddling brothers.
The responses of the vocal characters were mimicked by the WSU Symphonic Choir and, at times, shouted by Silber, whose animated and custom-voiced narration captivated the audience’s attention. Whirring sounds and deafening clashes reflected the exchange between a homesick Alice and the child-like twins, in addition to the use of the orchestra to create sounds of a sleeping Red King, a walrus and a carpenter.
The piece’s 11 scenes lasted 80 minutes, which tested the endurance of the symphony’s musicians, Silber’s high-energy narration and each vocalist on stage. The piece ended in the triumphant, lyrical revenge of two oysters returning as ghosts to stamp on the chest of a walrus who had eaten them. The whimsical styling of Del Tredici’s adaptation was disorganized, nonsensical and incredibly fast-paced.
“O woesful, weeping walrus,
Your tears are all a sham!
You’re greedier for oysters than children are for jam,
You like to have an oyster to give the meal a zest –
Excuse me, wicked walrus,
For stamping on your chest!”
This absurdly original concert encouraged the audience’s full attention for every last measure of sound. The paring of two such mismatched pieces made for a performance of great contrast, surprise and undeniable fascination.