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Review: Utah Chamber Artists' musical buffet has room for cello

Published May 7, 2013 8:59 am

Review • Salt Lake native Matthew Zalkind gives a stirring performance of Haydn concerto.
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Utah Chamber Artists dubbed its season-ending concert "Pastiche," suggesting a hodgepodge of musical styles. There was a sort of unifying thread, though, in that the concert showcased the things Barlow Bradford's small but mighty chorus and orchestra do best.

Bradford frequently collaborates with some of Utah's finest musicians. Monday night, the guest was cellist Matthew Zalkind, a Juilliard graduate and University of Michigan doctoral candidate who grew up in Salt Lake City. The young cellist's performance in the Haydn C Major Concerto showed that he already has a strong musical voice in addition to solid technical skills. His exuberant, purposeful playing and songful phrasing commanded the audience's attention instantly. The Utah Chamber Artists orchestra — which included the soloist's mother, Roberta Zalkind, as principal violist — gave a light, nimble supporting performance.

At Bradford's request, Zalkind encored with the second movement of György Ligeti's Sonata for Solo Cello — a fiendishly virtuosic breakup song for the cello. (If you missed this performance, you'll get another chance to hear Zalkind when he plays Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with the Utah Symphony a year from now.)

The 37-voice chorus got the stage mostly to itself as it opened the concert's second half with "Les Chansons des Roses," Morten Lauridsen's settings of five Rilke poems. Whether projecting the rapid-fire French text of "En une seule fleur" or luxuriating in every syllable of "Contre qui, rose," the singers demonstrated the crisp, transparent texture and beautiful tone quality for which they are known. Each song was a gem, but the highlight may have been the sublime performance of the suite's best-known song, "Dirait-on," featuring UCA accompanist Jared Pierce at the piano.

The concert opened with a typically tasteful performance of Gabriel Fauré's gentle "Messe basse" by the singers and orchestra. A handful of songs — Bradford's arrangement of the Hawaiian love song "Pua Lilia," an a cappella setting of Richard Rodgers' "My Romance" and a suave and stylish performance of the Fred E. Ahlert standard "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" — rounded out the program. —

Utah Chamber Artists

Music of Fauré, Haydn and Lauridsen.

With • Conductor Barlow Bradford and cellist Matthew Zalkind.

Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall at the University of Utah.

When • Monday, May 6.