The theme of this weekend’s Utah Symphony concerts is “pieces you don’t hear every week.” The most familiar work on the program, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Overture,” hasn’t been heard in Abravanel Hall since 1996, according to program notes. Guest conductor Andrey Boreyko and the orchestra made a sound case for all three works on Friday.
First up was Olivier Messiaen’s “The Ascension,” the devoutly Catholic French composer’s interpretation of Christ’s ascension into heaven 40 days after the resurrection. Messiaen was one of history’s best-known synesthetes, and not only was he able to hear colors, his imaginative and vivid compositions could make listeners swear they could hear the colors as well. The four-movement “Ascension” invited Friday’s audience to a place of contemplation, reverence and even awe. The Utah Symphony’s trumpet and woodwind players gave especially memorable performances.
The “Russian Easter Overture,” likewise, was a colorfully evocative and seasonally appropriate selection. Boreyko was generous in acknowledging individual performances; trombonist Mark Davidson was among the standouts.
Getting top billing from the orchestra’s marketing department was Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 3, a work that is almost, but not quite, a symphony. Friday’s performance found its groove early and never left it. Boreyko and the orchestra seemed to enjoy a strong rapport, as the players responded readily to the conductor’s refreshingly ostentation-free direction. The suite has delicious moments for virtually every instrument; the strings in particular stood out Friday with an expressive freedom that comes from technical discipline. A dialogue between the viola section and flutist Mercedes Smith was among the more delightful passages. Concertmaster Ralph Matson contributed some sweet solo playing throughout, and Lissa Stolz shone on English horn. The suite’s final movement is a niftily crafted, albeit long-winded, set of variations; the orchestra’s charming performance kept it from lapsing into tedium
R Music of Rimsky-Korsakov, Messiaen and Tchaikovsky.
With • Conductor Andrey Boreyko.
When • Reviewed Friday; repeats tonight at 8.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
Running time • Two hours, including intermission.
Tickets • $23-$60 at www.utahsymphony.org.
Learn more • Hilary Demske, director of piano studies at Utah Valley University, will give a lecture onstage at 7 p.m.