The Utah Symphony's Russian celebration continues. After last weekend's concerts of Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff with young Russian-born pianist Yevgeny Sudbin, the orchestra and music director Thierry Fischer perform works of Prokofiev and Mussorgsky with young Russian-born violinist Alina Ibragimova this weekend.
Ibragimova noted before the concert that she wasn't just making her Abravanel Hall debut, but giving her first concert on a 17th-century Italian violin. The instrument seemed to be a great fit for Ibragimova. It allowed her to project even the softest pianissimo passages of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 with power and a beautifully smooth tone. The concerto turns the usual fast-slow-fast concerto model inside out, sandwiching a spicy scherzo between two lyrical movements. Ibragimova spun out the long melodies of the outer movements with grace, patience and eloquence. The first movement featured a particularly lovely interaction between the soloist and new Utah Symphony principal flutist Mercedes Smith. The second movement, by contrast, allowed Ibragimova to explore a wide range of tonal effects, from throaty to crystalline. Fischer and the orchestra provided attentive support; the hushed conclusion of the first movement was especially magical.
Another Prokofiev work, the orchestral suite from his opera, "The Love for Three Oranges," opened the program in an exciting and dynamic reading by Fischer and the orchestra.
As satisfying as the Prokofiev works were, it was the ever-popular Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" that received top billing this weekend. "Pictures" is one warhorse that never seems to lose its charm. While Friday's performance may not have been one for the ages, it was a highly enjoyable one. Daron Bradford's saxophone solo brought a sense of mystery to the movement depicting the old castle, while Jeff Luke's near-flawless execution of the demanding trumpet part brought foot stamps of approval from his colleagues.
Music of Prokofiev and Mussorgsky.
With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and violinist Alina Ibragimova.
When • Reviewed Friday, Sept. 21; repeats Saturday, Sept. 22, at 8 p.m.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
Running time • Just shy of 2 hours, including a 20-minute intermission.
Tickets • $23 to $72.
Learn more • Fischer, Ibragimova and orchestra VP Toby Tolokan will chat about the music onstage at 7 p.m.