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(Courtesy photo) Mark Wigglesworth
British conductor back to lead Utah Symphony for consecutive weekends
Interview » Mark Wigglesworth recently appointed as music director of the English National Opera.
First Published Feb 20 2014 01:50 pm • Last Updated Feb 24 2014 05:20 pm

Mark Wigglesworth’s Utah Symphony debut in 2012 was so well-received, music director Thierry Fischer invited him back twice.

The British conductor, who recently was appointed as music director of the English National Opera, will lead the Utah Symphony on back-to-back weekends:

At a glance

Extended stay

British conductor Mark Wigglesworth will lead the Utah Symphony on consecutive weekends.

When » Feb. 28-March 1 (with pianist Alexander Melnikov) and March 7-8, 8 p.m.

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

Tickets » $18 to $55 ($5 more on performance day) at www.utahsymphony.org

Learn more » Wigglesworth will discuss the music with Utah Symphony VP Toby Tolokan onstage at 7 p.m.

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Feb. 28 and March 1 » Albert Schnelzer’s "A Freak in Burbank," the Grieg Piano Concerto with soloist Alexander Melnikov and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

March 7-8 » Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 ("Haffner"), Lutoslawski’s Symphony No. 4 and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 ("From the New World").

"I asked him to play something spicy" in addition to the crowd favorites, said Fischer, who had planned to be in the audience for Wigglesworth’s first weekend in Abravanel Hall but instead will be making his debut with the Atlanta Symphony. (The scheduled conductor, Marc Piollet, is unable to travel, according to an Atlanta Symphony news release.)

Wigglesworth answered questions submitted via email.

What were your impressions of the orchestra (and Salt Lake City) on your last visit?

The Utah Symphony are a wonderful group of musicians — experienced yet open, disciplined but free. The ideal combination. I also enjoyed the city — making the most of the opportunity to trace my ancestors back to the 18th century.

What are your thoughts on conducting back-to-back weekends — do you approach such an engagement any differently?

To work with an orchestra over a longer time span than normal is a great privilege. It is often frustrating to leave almost as soon as a rapport has been created, and I am looking forward enormously to the opportunity of starting a second week whilst the connections built up in the first one are still strong. Conductors and players only really get to know each other’s musicmaking in performance situations, and to be able to benefit from that mutual experience so immediately allows for a much deeper understanding.

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Each program you’re conducting here includes at least one highly familiar and one more unusual work. How do the pieces complement one another?

I believe we need both new and old music in our lives. When we listen to a new work, we do so within the context of hundreds of other pieces. That context allows us to better appreciate the originality of what modern composers are saying as well as the way they are saying it. In return, that new experience keeps our experience of the well-known classics fresh and alive. The active way one needs to listen to a new work helps prevent us from hearing familiar music too passively. All music is new at the moment it is being played — its performance nature guarantees that even old music is part of a living art form. But unless new material is allowed to constantly enrich what we already have, our imagination will no longer be stretched, and in time the art form will die altogether.

Tell us a little about "A Freak in Burbank" and the Lutoslawski symphony and why you chose them.

I think both pieces balance a sense of tradition with a spirit of adventure. Both are accessible without being overly familiar. They take you somewhere you haven’t been without feeling you’ll never be able to find your way home! "A Freak in Burbank" is a sort of 18th-century take on modern life, the sort of upbeat overture that Haydn might have written if he’d been alive today. The Lutoslawski symphony is more Mahlerian in style, yet it expresses its emotions with a distinctive elegance and panache, that makes it as rewarding to play as it is to listen to.

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