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Utah Symphony review: Substitute piano concerto is a hands-down success

Published February 18, 2013 12:28 pm

Review • Pianist excels in left-hand concerto; Utah Symphony thrills crowd with dueling "Romeo and Juliets."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

What does an orchestra do when a soloist injures his hand just days before a scheduled concerto appearance? One option is to find a replacement soloist. The Utah Symphony this weekend opted instead for a change of repertoire.

Nicholas Angelich, making only his second appearance in Abravanel Hall since he won the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition in 1994, performed Ravel's Concerto for Piano Left Hand in place of the scheduled Schumann Piano Concerto. And if listeners hadn't known better, they easily could have been fooled into thinking Angelich was using both hands, thanks to his fluid and assured technique. Ravel is one of the all-time masters of orchestral coloration, and Angelich made full and vibrant use of the assortment of colors the composer gave him. The Utah Symphony, under music director Thierry Fischer, likewise adapted beautifully to the change of plans, reveling in all that Ravelicious color.

Bookending the concerto, in honor of this week's Valentine's Day holiday, were two familiar works inspired by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." First up was Prokofiev's ballet music in all its episodic glory. Even a listener who had never seen the often-performed ballet or the play on which it is based could get a clear picture of the dynamic between the Montague and Capulet families, the brashness of Juliet's cousin Tybalt, or the haunting scene in Juliet's tomb.

Fischer paired the Prokofiev with Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Fantasy Overture, which is more an impression than a retelling of the tale. Deft touches of color — a bit of horn here, a touch of harp there — highlighted the performance.

To the crowd's delight, Fischer threw in an extra bonbon: Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" Waltz. —

Utah Symphony

Music of Prokofiev, Ravel and Tchaikovsky.

With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and pianist Nicholas Angelich.

Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.

When • Reviewed Friday, Feb. 15; repeats Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 p.m.

Tickets • $23-$72 at 801-355-ARTS, the box office or http://www.usuo.org.

Running time • Two hours, including intermission.

Learn more • Fischer and Utah Symphony VP Toby Tolokan will chat about the music onstage at 7 p.m.; free to ticket­holders.