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Review: Beethoven bonanza launches Utah Symphony’s 75th-anniversary celebration in style

First Published      Last Updated Sep 11 2015 10:48 pm

Review » 75th-anniversary season starts with a bang.

Music director Thierry Fischer has big plans for the Utah Symphony's 75th-anniversary season — and Friday's season-opening performance indicated that the orchestra is up for the challenges.

First up: eight Beethoven symphonies in two weekends, starting with the Fourth and Fifth on opening night. A vibrant performance of the composer's "Coriolan" Overture started Friday's concert with an exclamation point. (How often do you hear shouts of "bravo" after the curtain-raiser?) A taut, energetic performance of the rambunctious Symphony No. 4 followed. Fischer is using streamlined lineups so as not to overtax his players; a side effect is an incisive, nimble sound.

The ever-popular Symphony No. 5 closed the evening in a performance of freshness and urgency. It featured particularly expressive playing from the woodwinds, led by Mercedes Smith (flute), Robert Stephenson (oboe), Tad Calcara (clarinet) and Lori Wike (bassoon).

The orchestra opened the second half with an exquisitely poignant performance of Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question" in tribute to its personnel director, Eric Johnson, who died earlier this summer.



Utah Symphony

Thierry Fischer leads the orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5 — the first installment in a four-concert, eight-symphony marathon.

When » Friday, Sept. 11

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

Up next » The Beethoven festival continues with Symphonies Nos. 8 and 6 on Saturday, Sept. 12; Nos. 1 and 3 on Friday, Sept. 18; and Nos. 2 and 7 on Saturday, Sept. 19. (You’ll have to wait until December for No. 9.) All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets » $18-$70 ($5 more on concert day; discounts for students and under-30s); utahsymphony.org

Learn more » Utah Symphony principal keyboardist Jason Hardink will speak on the music of Beethoven, with musical examples, at 6:45 each concert night. It’s free to ticketholders. Go to the First Tier Room directly above the box office.