Review: Utah Symphony delivers a grand finale
The Utah Symphony sprinted to the finish line on Friday, closing its season with energetic performances of three diverse and lively works.
Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme received the most enthusiastic reception from the good-sized crowd in Abravanel Hall. The soloist was hometown favorite Matthew Zalkind, an up-and-coming cellist whose parents, trombonist Larry and violist Roberta, are longtime members of the orchestra. (Larry Zalkind will be taking a leave of absence next season, having accepted a teaching position at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.) The young Zalkind may have enjoyed a home-court advantage in the hearty welcome he received from the audience and orchestra, but he proved himself a worthy soloist in his own right. He demonstrated not only a formidable technique, but a most engaging musical voice. Zalkind gave each of the variations a distinct character as the musical arc of the piece moved from stately Rococo to unabashed Romanticism. Most of all, the extroverted cellist made it all sound and look like such fun, it’s easy to imagine him inspiring a host of other youngsters to take up the instrument.
The concert opened with the last installment in music director Thierry Fischer’s seasonlong traversal of Carl Nielsen’s symphonies. Symphony No. 6, deceptively nicknamed the "Simple Symphony," is the most adventurous and quirky of the Danish composer’s symphonies, and the Utah Symphony gave an absorbing performance. Kudos to Fischer and the orchestra for promoting the music of this major composer, who deserves to be better-known.
Of particular interest in the Nielsen symphony was the humoresque of the second movement, scored for wind and percussion alone. Unfortunately, Friday’s performance featured a rare instance when an audience faux pas, rather than merely being annoying, compromised the listening experience. A procession of latecomers tromping across the back of the hall made it impossible to hear musical nuances. Perhaps the Abravanel Hall ushers could hold the doors until the end of the second movement next time.
Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances was the evening’s closer. The Utah Symphony brought muscle as well as finesse to Friday’s performance. of this warhorse The contributions of guest saxophonist Daron Bradford were especially welcome. Timpanist George Brown closed the proceedings with a rousing exclamation point.
Fischer and the orchestra then offered a surprise encore: the overture to the composer’s opera "Maskarade." It was a delightful end to this season of Nielsen.