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Fischer's Nielsen cycle continues to shine

Published November 15, 2013 11:00 pm

Review • Pianist Brautigam is stellar in Beethoven concerto.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Good things come in threes this weekend at Abravanel Hall. The Utah Symphony's concerts include Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor and Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 3, nicknamed "Sinfonia espansiva."

Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam gave a magnificent performance in the Beethoven concerto — the only piano concerto Beethoven wrote in a minor key. Brautigam made the elements of sunshine and shadow equally vivid. The accompaniment from the Utah Symphony, under Thierry Fischer's direction, was big but incisive. The conclusion of the concerto's first movement was pure magic — worth the price of admission on its own. Of special note in the finale were the contributions of a couple of Utah Symphony newcomers: clarinetist Erin Svoboda and percussionist Eric Hopkins, who gave the orchestra's "Beethoven timpani" a workout.

The other major work on the program was Nielsen's "Sinfonia espansiva," which gets its nickname not from its length or the size of the orchestra but from the musical ideas Nielsen sought to express. Midway through Fischer's seasonlong exploration of the composer's six symphonies, it's a bigger mystery with each installment why Carl Nielsen isn't a household name. The Third Symphony is bold, noble and life-affirming, filled with honest emotion but never overstepping the line of good taste. Wordless vocal solos from Melissa Heath and Shea Owen gave an ethereal touch.

The concert opened with a light, lively performance of Haydn's Symphony No. 4 — which most of the chamber-size orchestra played while standing, in keeping with the performance practice of Haydn's time. Rounding out the bill was a similarly invigorating performance of Mozart's Overture to "The Magic Flute." —

Utah Symphony

P Music of Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and Nielsen.

With • Conductor Thierry Fischer, pianist Ronald Brautigam, soprano Melissa Heath and baritone Shea Owen

When • Reviewed Friday; repeats Saturday at 8 p.m.

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

Tickets • $23 to $60 at http://www.utahsymphony.org

Running time • 2 hours, 10 minutes

Learn more • Fischer and Nielsen scholar Mogens Mogensen will chat about the music with Utah Symphony VP Toby Tolokan onstage at 7 p.m. Free to ticketholders.

Master class • Brautigam will teach a master class onstage at Abravanel Hall on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The class, featuring advanced Utah Symphony Youth Guild members playing for Brautigam, is free and open to the public, but seating onstage is limited. Register online. > bit.ly/usuoclass