It's always a pleasure to see a member of the Utah Symphony move up front to solo with the orchestra. This weekend, principal bassist David Yavornitzky a 25-year veteran of the post leaves the back row to present Hans Werner Henze's crazily virtuosic concerto for this rarely spotlighted instrument.
Henze's 1966 Concerto per Contrabbasso isn't necessarily a piece you'd want to listen to repeatedly, but as the old saying goes, variety is the spice of life. Yavornitzky gave a dazzling display of the capabilities of the double bass, showing off the imposing instrument's full tonal and dynamic range. In addition to impressive speed and nimbleness over the full length of the fingerboard, he got to demonstrate his proficiency with techniques not usually associated with the instrument, such as double stops and harmonics. Yavornitzky's Utah Symphony colleagues, conducted by music director Thierry Fischer, gave a strong supporting performance in the spare but intricate accompaniment. Harpist Louise Vickerman's contribution was particularly noteworthy. The smallish audience in Abravanel Hall made almost as much noise as a full house in its hearty ovation.
Fischer bookended the Henze concerto with the last two installments in his seasonlong Mendelssohn symphony cycle: Symphony No. 1, written when the composer was 15 years old, and Symphony No. 5, which actually was the second symphony the composer wrote.
The First Symphony owes a lot to Mozart, and the Utah Symphony's light yet purposeful performance magnified its youthful charm. The Fifth is subtitled "Reformation" because of Mendelssohn's prominent use of Martin Luther's hymn tune "Ein' feste Burg" in the finale. The orchestra gave a nicely shaded performance that left the audience humming the theme on the way out.
Music of Felix Mendelssohn and Hans Werner Henze.
With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and bassist David Yavornitzky.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
When • Reviewed Friday, Feb. 22; repeats Saturday, Feb. 23, at 8 p.m.
Running time • Two hours, including intermission.
Tickets • $18 to $67 at ArtTix.org or 801-355-ARTS.
Learn more • Fischer and Toby Tolokan will present a free preconcert chat at 7 p.m.