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Utah Symphony invites some friends to help celebrate 75th season

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2016 05:43 pm

Music » Celebrations will include two world premieres and a concert with a superstar pianist.

The Utah Symphony is throwing a party for its 75th birthday and inviting the neighbors.

Collaborations with five of Utah's leading performing-arts organizations — Ballet West, the Madeleine Choir School, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Opera and the Utah Shakespeare Festival — are among the highlights of an ambitious season that begins next week with a Beethoven marathon.

The celebration also includes two recording projects, two world premieres, a gala concert with superstar pianist Lang Lang and an appearance in New York City's Carnegie Hall.

"We're really pulling out all the stops," said Patricia Richards, former Utah Symphony | Utah Opera board chairwoman and current interim CEO. "If ever there were a time to come downtown and experience a concert, this is the year."

Music director Thierry Fischer, reached by phone in the south of France as he was preparing to conduct the London Sinfonietta in a 90th-birthday salute to composer-conductor Pierre Boulez, said he felt it only right to showcase the 86 musicians of the Utah Symphony at the outset of this milestone season — and how better, he reasoned, than with the music of an intrepid composer like Beethoven. He will lead the first eight of the composer's symphonies over two weekends, with the mighty Ninth to follow on the first weekend in December. Fischer led a Beethoven symphony cycle during his first full season as music director, in 2011-12, and noted that the composer has been scarce on Utah Symphony programs since then. "It will be very good and positive for the orchestra members and community to see what we have achieved together since then," he said. "I really think the orchestra picked up the Classical approach incredibly fast."

He acknowledged the Beethoven binge will be a workout for the musicians, who typically play the same concert program on Friday and Saturday nights. "It's a huge amount of concentration," he said. "We like to push the audience and also ourselves."

There's another major symphony project going on this year: the second half of Fischer's Mahler cycle. The conductor launched the project last season, partly as a tribute to the late Maurice Abravanel, who brought the Utah Symphony to national prominence during his 32 years as music director. A pioneering set of recordings of the Mahler symphonies was a key part of Abravanel's legacy.

The February performances of the composer's Symphony No. 8 will be recorded for commercial release, as was last year's season-opening Mahler Symphony No. 1. (That recording will be released Friday, to coincide with this season's opening night.) Also this season, the orchestra will perform and record world premieres of works it commissioned from Andrew Norman and Nico Muhly, to be released on a disc with Augusta Read Thomas' "EOS (Goddess of the Dawn), A Ballet for Orchestra."

Mahler's Symphony No. 8, popularly known as the "Symphony of a Thousand," will bring the orchestra together with two of its most frequent collaborators, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Madeleine Choir School. (The concerts will take place in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Utah Symphony's longtime home before Abravanel Hall opened in 1979.) Another longtime partnership will be spotlighted when Utah Opera, which has operated under the same administrative umbrella as the Utah Symphony since 2002, returns to Abravanel Hall in November to perform Ravel's one-act opera "The Child and the Enchantments." The Utah Symphony has accompanied Utah Opera performances at the Capitol Theatre for years, but the success of 2013's semistaged "Salome" at Abravanel Hall inspired the two organizations to bring the orchestra out of the pit again.

The Cedar City-based Utah Shakespeare Festival, which sent actors to Salt Lake City to narrate Mendelssohn's music for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 2011, will return for performances of Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" in April.

USF artistic directors David Ivers and Brian Vaughn said they're still working out the details of that performance, but noted that uniting another art form with a piece of music so strongly associated with ballet is an exciting challenge. "We're champions of each other in the best possible way," Ivers said. "It's fun for us to be in a different medium, and I think it is for them too."

Fischer said he also looks forward to his first project with Ballet West and artistic director Adam Sklute in February. Sklute, a regular symphony- and operagoer, likewise called the partnership "a wonderful honor."

The two organizations co-commissioned new choreography from Helen Pickett for Debussy's "Jeux." Sklute cautioned that the racy love triangle is "for mature audiences." The concert will include two other works featuring dance: Gottschalk's "Tarantella," with a duet choreographed by George Balanchine, and a pas de deux by Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino, based on the Ondine myth and performed with the slow movement of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G.

"We are just part of the greater cultural community," Richards said. "This state should be so proud of what we have. It felt appropriate to celebrate our anniversary with them."

What you’ll hear

Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s 2014-15 season. Orchestra concerts are in Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, except as noted; operas at the Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City.

Note to longtime concertgoers: After years of 8 p.m. concerts, the Utah Symphony is shifting to a 7:30 p.m. start this year.

Sept. 11 » Masterworks: Beethoven, “Coriolan” Overture and Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5. Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Sept. 12 » Masterworks: Beethoven, Symphonies Nos. 8 and 6 (“Pastoral”). Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Sept. 18 » Masterworks: Beethoven, Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 (“Eroica”). Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Sept. 19 » Masterworks: Beethoven, Symphonies Nos. 2 and 7. Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Sept. 22 » Special event: Salute to Youth. Rei Hotoda, conductor; McCall Andersen, Rachel Aina Call, Erika Hubbard, Soonyoung Kwon , Jeremy Lewis and Will Yavornitzky, violin; Madison Marshall, viola; Ashley Fleming, flute; Mischael Staples, harp; Sally Drutman, voice; Hannah Jean Baker, Trenton Chang and Alexander Cheng, piano. The young soloists, chosen by audition, will perform music of Vivaldi, Dittersdorf, Mozart, Donizetti, MacDowell, Beethoven, Ibert and Rachmaninoff.

Sept. 25-26 » Entertainment: “Sci-Fi Spectacular” featuring the music of John Williams. Jack Everly, conductor; Marina Sirtis, narrator; Kristen Plumley, vocalist.

Oct. 1 » Special event: 75th-anniversary gala. Beethoven, “Egmont” Overture; Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491; Wagner, Prelude to “Die Meistersinger”; Grieg, Piano Concerto in A Minor. Thierry Fischer, conductor; Lang Lang, piano.

Oct. 10-18 » Opera: Puccini, “Tosca.” Robert Tweten, conductor; Kathleen Clawson, stage director.

Oct. 23-24 » Masterworks: Debussy, “Clair de lune”; Takemitsu, “Spirit Garden”; Orff, “Carmina Burana.” Jun Märkl, conductor; Utah Symphony Chorus; Madeleine Choir School; soloists TBA.

Oct. 27 » Special event: “A Wizarding Halloween Spooktacular!” Rei Hotoda, conductor.

Oct. 30-31 » Entertainment: “Mysterioso: Music, Magic and Mayhem.” Jack Everly, conductor; Joseph Gabriel, magician/illusionist; Les Arnold and Dazzle, comedy magic; David and Dania, magical transformations; Christina Bianco, vocalist.

Nov. 6-7 » Masterworks: Andrew Norman, Percussion Concerto (world premiere); Mahler, Symphony No. 5. Thierry Fischer, conductor; Colin Currie, percussion.

Nov. 13-14 » Masterworks: Ravel, “La valse,” “Une barque sur l’océan,” “Boléro,” “L’enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Enchantments).” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Utah Opera Chorus; Madeleine Choir School; soloists TBA.

Nov. 20-21 » Masterworks: Haydn, Symphony No. 6 (“Morning”); Mahler, Symphony No. 6 (“Tragic”). Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Nov. 28 » Special event: “Messiah” Sing-In. Conductor and soloists TBA; Utah Symphony Chorus.

Dec. 4-5 » Masterworks: Nico Muhly, world premiere TBA; Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 (“Ode to Joy”). Thierry Fischer, conductor; Joshua Higgason, video designer; Utah Symphony Chorus; soloists TBA.

Dec. 18-19 » Entertainment: “Home Alone,” screening of the film with live orchestra accompaniment. Conductor TBA.

Dec. 19 » Family: “Here Comes Santa Claus!” Rei Hotoda, conductor.

Dec. 22-23 » Special event: “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony.” George Daugherty, conductor.

Jan. 2 » Special event: New Year’s celebration. J. Strauss Jr., Overture and Laughing Song from “Die Fledermaus,” “Perpetuum Mobile,” “Frühlingsstimmen,” “Pizzicato Polka” and “On the Beautiful Blue Danube”; Rihm, “Drängender Walzer”; Ravel, “Danse Générale” from “Daphnis et Chloé”; Lehár, Overture to “The Merry Widow” and “Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss” from “Giuditta”; Prokofiev, “New Year’s Eve Ball” Waltz Suite from “War and Peace.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Celena Shafer, soprano.

Jan. 8-9 » Masterworks: Mozart, Violin Concerto No. 4; Mahler, Symphony No. 7. Thierry Fischer, conductor; Augustin Hadelich, violin.

Jan. 14 » Chamber: Respighi, “Three Botticelli Pictures”; Grieg, Holberg Suite; Franz Schreker, Chamber Symphony; Korngold, “Much Ado About Nothing” Suite. Rei Hotoda, conductor. At St. Mary’s Church, Park City.

Jan. 16-24 » Opera: Lehár, “The Merry Widow.” Jerry Steichen, conductor; David Gately, stage director.

Jan. 29-30 » Masterworks: Haydn, Symphony No. 96 (“Miracle”); Marc-André Dabalvie, Flute Concerto; Bizet/Borne, “Carmen Fantaisie Brillante”; Wagner, Overture to “The Flying Dutchman”; Bartók, Suite from “The Miraculous Mandarin.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Emmanuel Pahud, flute.

Feb. 5-6 » Masterworks: Weber, Overture to “Der Freischütz”; Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto; Stravinsky, “Petrushka”; de Falla, “Ritual Fire Dance” from “El amor brujo.” Jun Märkl, conductor; Stefan Jackiw, violin.

Feb. 12-13 » Entertainment: “75 Years of Bravo Broadway.” Jerry Steichen, conductor; vocalists TBA.

Feb. 19-20 » Special event: Mahler, Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”). Thierry Fischer, conductor; Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Madeleine Choir School; soloists TBA. In the Salt Lake Tabernacle as part of the O.C. Tanner Gift of Music series.

Feb. 26-27 » Masterworks: Gershwin, “An American in Paris”; Gottschalk, “Tarantella”; Ravel, Piano Concerto in G; Debussy, “Jeux.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Louis Schwizgebel, piano; dancers from Ballet West.

March 4-5 » Masterworks: Matthias Pintscher, “Idyll for Orchestra”; Saint-Saëns, Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Egyptian”); Ravel, “Alborada del gracioso”; Debussy, “La mer.” Matthias Pintscher, conductor; Teo Gheorghiu, piano.

March 12-20 » Opera: Verdi, “Aida.” Ari Pelto, conductor; Garnett Bruce, stage director.

March 19 » Family: “The Probably Untrue Story of Mary (Who) Had a Little Lamb.” Rei Hotoda, conductor; Micah Levy, composer and narrator.

March 25-26 » Masterworks: Wagner, “Good Friday Spell” from “Parsifal”; Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2; Respighi, “The Fountains of Rome” and “The Pines of Rome.” Robert Spano, conductor; Kirill Gerstein, piano.

April 8-9 » Masterworks: Ligeti, “Atmosphères”; Scriabin, “Poem of Ecstasy”; Holst, “The Planets.” Hans Graf, conductor; women of the Utah Symphony Chorus.

April 15-16 » Masterworks: Strauss, Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier”; Prokofiev, “Romeo and Juliet.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; actors from the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

April 22-23 » Entertainment: “Let’s Dance!” Jeff Tyzik, conductor; Stephen Edward Sayer, Chandrea Roettig, Diego Di Falco, Carolina Zokalski, Forest Walsh, Melissa Shahin, dancers; Ted Louis Levy, tap dancer; Michael Lynche and Julie Jo Hughes, vocalists.

April 23 » Family: “The Life & Times of Beethoven.” Rei Hotoda, conductor; Michael Boudewyns, guest artist.

April 29 » Special event: Haydn, Symphony No. 96 (“Miracle”); Bartók, Suite from “The Miraculous Mandarin”; Andrew Norman, Percussion Concerto; Strauss, Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Colin Currie, percussion. At Carnegie Hall, New York City.

May 5 » Chamber: Mozart, Divertimento in D Major, Piano Concerto No. 13 in C Major (K. 415), “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” Piano Cocnerto No. 14 in E-flat Major (K. 449). Rei Hotoda, conductor; Jason Hardink, piano.

May 7-15 » Opera: Mozart, “The Marriage of Figaro.” Gary Thor Wedow, conductor; Tara Faircloth, stage director.

May 17 » Special event: All-Star Evening. Rei Hotoda, conductor; Miriam Wagstaff, viola. Gyula David, Concerto for Viola; other works TBA.

May 20-21 » Masterworks: Barber, Essay No. 2; Gershwin, Piano Concerto in F; Dvorák, Symphony No. 8. Cristian Macelaru, conductor; Joyce Yang, piano.

May 27-28 » Masterworks: Mahler, Symphony No. 9. Thierry Fischer, conductor.



It’s Beethoven time

The Utah Symphony opens its season with music of Beethoven. On Friday, music director Thierry Fischer leads the orchestra in the “Coriolan” Overture and symphonies 4 and 5; Saturday brings symphonies 8 and 6. (The Beethoven festival continues a week later, with symphonies 1 and 3 on Sept. 18 and symphonies 1 and 7 on Sept. 19.)

When » Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11 and 12, 7:30 p.m.

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

Tickets » $18-$70; utahsymphony.org

Learn more » Utah Symphony principal pianist Jason Hardink will give lecture-demonstrations on Beethoven each evening of the festival at 6:45 in Abravanel Hall’s First Tier Room.

Happy birthday

Utahns who have a longtime association with the Utah Symphony — professionally, as audience members or both — shared thoughts on the orchestra’s 75th-anniversary season.

Ardean Watts » Watts joined the Utah Symphony as a pianist in 1957, became associate conductor in 1968 and resigned shortly after his mentor, music director Maurice Abravanel, retired in 1979. From those 22 memorable years, Watts shared a favorite memory: “One night after we had performed a choral work, Maurice was backstage and a huge crowd was there congratulating him. A girl came up in the garb of the chorus and said, ‘You won’t remember me, but. …’ Maurice held up his hand and said, ‘Stop. You sang in the chorus —’ and he mentioned another choral event in which she indeed had sung. He did not recognize her by name, but he knew her.” Watts believes the moment typified the orchestra’s tradition of community engagement, a priority under Abravanel and continuing today.

Crawford Gates » The composer-conductor was a regular guest on the Utah Symphony podium during the Abravanel years and was one of the Utah composers whose works the maestro championed. Less than a week after arriving in Salt Lake City in 1947, Abravanel took the then-25-year-old Gates to lunch and chided him for not having a copy of the score of his music drama “Promised Valley.” (Gates rectified that situation right away.)

Pat Richards » The orchestra’s interim CEO and former board chairwoman also dates her association with the Utah Symphony to the Abravanel years, when she sang in the chorus. She remembers performances of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony and Bloch’s “Sacred Service” as among the most spiritual experiences of her life. The Bloch, in particular, was “a real community-building event,” she said.

Ashby Decker » Decker is a longtime patron of Utah’s cultural organizations along with his wife of 57 years, actor Anne Cullimore Decker. He remembers hearing the Utah Symphony under conductor Werner Janssen, Abravanel’s predecessor, and writing about it for the Bryant Junior High newspaper. “It became a real professional orchestra when Maurice Abravanel came and took it over, but even then, the musicians had to have another job,” he said. “I remember, as a young CPA, buying an adding machine from a violinist.”