Utah Symphony leads off with spellbinding Beethoven concerto

Review • Augustin Hadelich’s return and two Strauss tone poems add up to an enjoyable evening.

The Utah Symphony’s Masterworks season got off to a grand opening Friday night, with violinist Augustin Hadelich showing the Abravanel Hall crowd why music director Thierry Fischer called his musicianship “more than impeccable.”

Hadelich gave a spellbinding performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Whatever the score called for, whether lightning-fast virtuosity or soulful singing, he delivered in abundance. The first- and third-movement cadenzas were decidedly different in mood yet equally compelling. The orchestra’s accompaniment was enthusiastic, albeit a little brass-heavy in the early going. Hadelich answered the crowd’s noisy ovation with a more-than-impeccable performance of Paganini’s 21st Caprice. (In his four appearances here, he’s encored with Paganini three times — not that anyone who heard those performances would complain.)

The concert’s second half brought two favorite Richard Strauss tone poems, “Don Juan” and “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.” “Don Juan” opened with a startling burst of energy and maintained that high level to the end, even when pausing for a beguiling solo from oboist James Hall or concertmaster Madeline Adkins. “Till” was even more fun, with Edmund Rollett handling the famous horn calls admirably and percussionists Keith Carrick, George Brown, Eric Hopkins and Mike Pape heralding the prankster’s fate with glee.

The evening opened with the traditional singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a dramatic rendition of Mozart’s Overture to “Don Giovanni.”

Utah Symphony<br>The Masterworks season opener, with music of Mozart, Beethoven and R. Strauss.<br>With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and violinist Augustin Hadelich<br>When • Reviewed Friday, Sept. 15; repeats Saturday, Sept. 16, at 7:30 p.m.<br>Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple<br>Running time • 2 hours, including intermission<br>Tickets • $37-$82; utahsymphony.org