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Review: DSSO closer ends challenging season triumphantly

"From Beethoven to Milhaud" closed the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's 2020-21 season.

DNT review

For its final concert of the season, “From Beethoven to Milhaud,” the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra presented what they referred to as “Your favorite quilt: Many different and diverse small pieces that come together to form a beautiful whole.”

Part of the eclectic concert were two short modern works. The first was the stirring “Freedom” by Afghan composer Milad Yousufi. His dramatic anthem evoked his dreams of making a difference in the future of music and culture in Afghanistan.

The other was a piece by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Noé Golijov entitled “ZZ’s Dream,” based on a Chinese poem. The orchestra captured the ethereal qualities of this mystical and haunting piece.

Featured soloist in Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622," was Jennifer Gerth, in her 24th season as the DSSO’s principal clarinet.

This sublime concerto was the last major instrumental composition Mozart composed, just two months before his untimely death at age 35. Gerth navigated the depths and heights of the work’s emotions, from the lonely and melancholy to the playful and sprightly.


Bringing out the clarinet’s “voice,” Gerth made the instrument sound every bit like an operatic diva. As one critic wrote in 1785, “One would never have thought that a clarinet could imitate the human voice to such perfection.” Gerth’s performance recreated that “human” voice with a compelling performance, equaled by the orchestra behind her.

French composer Darius Milhaud wrote the colorfully named “Le Boef Sur Le Toit” (“The Ox on the Roof”) for a ballet, basing the music on his experiences at the Carnival in Rio de Janiero, with a mix of folk tunes, tangos, sambas and other dance music styles.

The orchestra had great fun with this comical romp that sounded like what the composer described as a film score for an imaginary Charlie Chaplin movie.

Concluding the program with Beethoven’s “Leonore Overture No. 3 Opus 72b” was a fitting and optimistic touch to play an overture as a finale.

Distilling the only opera Beethoven ever wrote, “Fidelio,” the “Leonore Overture” is a thrilling mix of despair, hope, and triumph. Played with spirit and intensity by the DSSO, they were perhaps reflecting on their own same mix of emotions about this past season.

Meyer thanked the audience for keeping the DSSO going all season with an encore by composer Edward Elgar that the Maestro referred to as a “musical love note and thank you” to their audiences both at-home and in-person.

Conductor Benjamin Zander once said, “The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He depends, for his power, on his ability to make other people powerful.”

DSSO Music Director Dirk Meyer has made what he described as a “crazy season” to still be a powerful one under his brilliant direction. From selecting the season’s repertoire to his masterful connections with both his orchestra and with live and virtual audiences, Meyer has navigated the DSSO through this past year’s challenges.


Bravo to Meyer, DSSO Executive Director Brandon VanWaeyenberghe, the DSSO staff, and the marvelous, dedicated musicians for making the magic and creating what German writer Jean Paul Richter was describing when he said, “Music is the poetry of the air.”

If You Go

  • What: “From Beethoven to Milhaud” final DSSO Concert 2020-2021
  • Where: Streaming passes for $10 at
  • When: Online from Monday, May 10 to Monday, May 24

Sheryl Jensen is a former teacher, magazine editor and director. She reviews performances for the News Tribune.

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