Like most performing arts organizations have already done, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra have realized that classical music is not tremendously popular among young people. They’ve now set out to fight that trend with ReMix, a concert series held in the elegant new City Performance Hall and with a more relaxed atmosphere: concerto soloists address the audience, unheard of at your typical DSO concert; most ticketing is on a general admission basis; and every patron receives in his program a coupon for a complimentary bar drink, which is allowed to be brought into the hall during the performance.

This weekend marked the first of two ReMix events this year, and the series got off to a decidedly rocky start. There were more audience members than printed programs, which forced at least one listener to take notes on the reverse side of his drink voucher, thus squandering a free vodka and tonic. And while a more casual approach to presentation may prove effective in some settings, it isn’t an excuse for a casual approach to performance. This concert, excepting most of the Bach concerto, felt tentative at best, and failed to meet the high standard the DSO have repeatedly set for themselves.

The concert started with promise before going steadily downhill. DSO principal oboist Erin Hannigan came on stage with her instrument – for the Bach concerto, an oboe d’amore – for a bit of show-and-tell, explaining the difference between it and its two more commonly heard cousins, the oboe and the English horn. While mildly informative, this was hardly the stuff with which to light fires in the hearts of adventurous young music-lovers. Ms Hannigan’s playing, though, was an all-too-brief highlight this evening. Aside from some small disagreements about tempi in the first two movements, she and Maestro Jaap van Zweden gave the Oboe d’amore Concerto in A major a vibrant reading. The pared-down ensemble radiated sound throughout the 750-seat hall, and Mr van Zweden took advantage of a wide palette of softer dynamics. Ms Hannigan’s warm sound and stylish, assured phrasing were memorable even after the remainder of this disappointing evening.

Works by Schoenberg and Prokofiev fell flat in comparison. Mr van Zweden adopted an approach in Verklärte Nacht, Schoenberg’s early Expressionist masterpiece, that could only generously be described as Germanic. The DSO’s performance was so square as to suck the life out of Schoenberg’s lush thickets of chromaticism. There was none of the impulsive ebb and flow that the piece needs, and that comes so naturally in its original setting for string sextet (the version for full string orchestra heard this evening is by Schoenberg as well). Basic attention to detail was lacking, too, with intonation issues plaguing parts of the performance.

Principal cellist Christopher Adkins’ remarks before performing Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante were funny and intelligent; he related compositional details without lapsing into pedantry, and gave a human face to the composer and his music without skimping on seriousness. Once he returned to the stage to play, however, the second half of this program seemed awfully long. Mr Adkins’ playing lacked assertiveness, offering fewer well-wrought phrases than insecure moments in this nearly forty-minute work.

With what must be a large subscription base – the DSO regularly fill their usual hall, the Meyerson Symphony Center, quite well, but were reportedly selling seats in the much smaller City Performance Hall at the last minute for $3 apiece – an effort like the ReMix series is an outlier in the culture of the DSO. This new approach complements a flashy set of original graphic ads for this season’s TI Classical Series. One of these, for a program featuring Stravinsky’s Firebird, is a stylized photograph of several DSO musicians, instruments in hand (and in one case, cigarette in mouth), posing around a Pontiac Firebird. Campy publicity aside, I look forward to hearing the Stravinsky without having to scramble for a seat, jot down my thoughts on a cocktail napkin, or endure anyone else’s beverage being spilled underneath my chair. And I look forward to it with the expectation that the DSO will be as prepared as Dallasites have come to expect.