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Review: Symphony offers refined Mozart, a world premiere and a Berlioz blockbuster

Published April 29, 2013 7:28 am

Review • Concert boasts refined Mozart, a world premiere and a Berlioz blockbuster.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

A popular piano concerto, a world premiere and an orchestral favorite duke it out for top billing at the Utah Symphony this weekend. Which one will come out on top? It depends upon your taste.

First up on Friday was 30-year-old pianist Yu Kosuge, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor — arguably among the top five concertos the prolific Mozart wrote for the instrument. Kosuge's performance was captivating. With her quiet but inviting interpretive voice, she showcased the sunshine and shadow that characterize so much of Mozart's work. In the second movement particularly, Kosuge's collaboration with the Utah Symphony woodwind section took on an intimate chamber-music quality, with the strings providing discreet and discerning support under Thierry Fischer's light-handed direction.

Friday's concert marked the world premiere of British composer Simon Holt's "Ellsworth 2," commissioned by the Utah Symphony. As Fischer explained before the orchestra returned to the stage, Holt took inspiration from Ellsworth Kelly's "Painting for a white wall," which consists of five different-colored rectangles, equal in size. Accordingly, "Ellsworth 2" consists of five movements, each 3 minutes in duration. The painting was projected on a screen at the back of the stage as the work began, then each constituent color was displayed as the orchestra played the movement that represented it.

Some of the depictions were more or less as expected — sparse orchestration with long rests for "white," aggressive and densely textured sounds for "black" — while others were more surprising. "Orange," for example, was less jolly than one might have guessed, and "pink" was a bit more piquant. It was an interesting exercise in the subjectivity of color and the cultural expectations that influence our perception of it (though, curiously, the colors on the screen did not appear very true to life).

The grand finale was Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique." Many concertgoers still remember Fischer's last performance of this showpiece with the Utah Symphony on his successful audition concert in 2007. No one has taken it on in a Utah Symphony masterworks concert since then. Fischer again demonstrated his mastery of the Berlioz blockbuster in Friday's concert. His well-paced reading brought out a wealth of color and detail. Highlights included Lissa Stolz's wonderfully expressive English horn solos in the third movement, accompanied first by oboist Robert Stephenson (ensconced about a third of the way back in the first tier of seats) and later by a battalion of timpani. An expanded bassoon section also did itself proud in the deliciously grim "March to the Scaffold" movement. —

Utah Symphony

Music of Mozart, Berlioz and Simon Holt.

With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and pianist Yu Kosuge.

When • Reviewed Friday, April 26; repeats Saturday, April 27, at 8 p.m.

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

Running time • Two hours, 15 minutes, including intermission.

Tickets • $23 to $58 at 801-355-ARTS (2787), in the ticket office or at utahsymphony.org; $10 tickets are available to patrons 30 and younger through the USUO Upbeat program.

Learn more • Fischer and Holt will chat about the music with Utah Symphony artistic planning VP Toby Tolokan onstage at 7 p.m.