Patricia Kopatchinskaja blew into Salt Lake City this week, dazzling two decidedly different audiences in two markedly different venues.
The main event came Friday in Abravanel Hall, where the extraordinarily communicative violinist played the Berg Violin Concerto with the Utah Symphony and music director Thierry Fischer. From her stealth entrance (barefoot, as members of the string sections played a gentle waltz that set up the concerto perfectly) to her invitation for concertmaster Madeline Adkins to join her in an encore by 17th-century composer Orlando Gibbons, everything about Kopatchinskaja’s performance was unconventional but indisputably musical.
The concerto, written in response to the death of the composer’s young friend from polio, is a work of melancholy beauty, though it also gave Kopatchinskaja a chance to show off some fearsome technical skills. It unfolded in a ribbon of sound that pulled the listener inexorably forward. The soloist made a remarkable connection with the orchestra, first joining principal violist Brant Bayless in a riveting duet and then, toward the end of the piece, leaning in toward Adkins and associate concertmaster Kathryn Eberle as if intent in conversation.
The Utah Symphony seemed to feed on Kopatchinskaja’s unique energy, not only in the Berg concerto but also in lively performances of the two works that bookended it: four Hungarian dances by Brahms and Beethoven’s beloved Fifth Symphony. The most familiar of the Brahms dances — No. 5 — closed out that set in a burst of joy. As for the Beethoven, Fischer took it at his characteristically brisk tempo but tossed in enough unexpected choices of dynamics and phrasing to make this most famous of symphonies feel fresh.
The program repeats Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City. Tickets are $20 to $93.
On Wednesday, the fiercely original Kopatchinskaja headlined an edgier evening presented by MOTUS After Dark. She was the vocalist in a multimedia performance of Schoenberg’s avant-garde classic “Pierrot Lunaire,” joining a small ensemble of Utah Symphony musicians led by music director Thierry Fischer. Though ambient sound in the crowded SKY SLC bar made it difficult to hear the finer details of the performance, Kopatchinskaja’s vocal stylings, facial acting and movements conveyed nearly as much meaning as the expressionist poetry projected on the screens flanking the stage. (The audience was more attentive during solo performances by flutist Mercedes Smith, violinist Madeline Adkins and pianist Jason Hardink.)
Kopatchinskaja followed “Pierrot” with an electrifying performance of Ravel’s violin showpiece “Tzigane,” with Hardink providing stellar accompaniment.