Four is a lucky number for the Utah Symphony
Four turned out to be fab for the Utah Symphony on Friday.
In music director Thierry Fischer’s fourth appearance of the season, the orchestra turned in lively performances of Antonio Vivaldi’s "The Four Seasons" and Carl Nielsen’s lesser-known, but no less engaging, Symphony No. 2, "The Four Temperaments." An announcement at the concert’s midpoint added another number to the equation: $5 million, a gift from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation that will kick off a $20 million fundraising campaign. Utah Symphony | Utah Opera board chairwoman Pat Richards made the announcement, which earned Eccles Foundation representatives a standing ovation from the near-sellout crowd in Abravanel Hall and from the musicians onstage.
Friday’s performance gave the audience something else to cheer about. With the young Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti as soloist, the orchestra’s string players and harpsichordist Jason Hardink gave an invigorating performance of "The Four Seasons." The musicians brought freshness, fun and even a sense of spontaneity to this familiar set of concertos. It was easy to picture swarming gnats, driving summer rain and swirling snow — not because we’ve been conditioned by countless performances, but because of the engaging presentation of these performers. In one especially enchanting sequence, violinists Kathryn Eberle and Claude Halter joined Benedetti in portraying a chorus of cheerful birds.
Like the four concertos that make up "The Four Seasons," each movement of Nielsen’s "Four Temperaments" has an unmistakable character — though Nielsen’s more nuanced approach suggests that most personalities represent a mixture of temperaments. The "choleric" movement fairly burst from the stage with its high-voltage sweep; "phlegmatic" was less forceful, though equally determined; "melancholic," the movement that Fischer believes to be closest to the composer’s own temperament, pulled the audience into its mood of deep introspection; and "sanguine" was jolly and roguish, quickly shrugging off a brief pause for reflection near the end.
The next two weeks will bring two more symphonies from this intriguing composer.