It was an egalitarian evening at Abravanel Hall on Friday, when an emperor sat comfortably between two common men.
Pianist Conrad Tao continued his string of impressive guest appearances with the Utah Symphony, filling in on two days' notice for an ailing André Watts to play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"). (His five-season streak, which now includes three late substitutions, is all the more impressive considering he is 20 years old.)
Tao played the "Emperor" with confidence and verve. Undoubtedly Watts, who at 68 is old enough to be Tao's grandfather, would have given a more reflective reading, but the younger man's turbo-charged performance thrilled the near-capacity crowd. Guest conductor Hugh Wolff's bracing tempos added to the sense of immediacy.