Nothing draws music fans to Abravanel Hall quite like Sergei Rachmaninoff. Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker delivered this musical manna Friday night, joining the Utah Symphony and guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth to dazzle the enthusiastic full house with the composer’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”
Parker held the crowd at rapt attention, from the lightning crash that opens the concerto until its sparkling conclusion. The famed 18th Variation, which has amped up the romance in films as diverse as “Somewhere in Time” and “Groundhog Day,” was particularly well-received. As an encore, the pianist gave a brilliant rendition of “Blues Etude” by fellow Canadian Oscar Peterson — explaining that Peterson, like Rachmaninoff, was inspired by American jazz virtuoso Art Tatum.
British conductor Wigglesworth has become a favorite at Abravanel Hall; this weekend marks his fifth visit here. Wigglesworth has a clear affinity for the music of his countryman Edward Elgar, as he showed in a memorable performance of the “Enigma” Variations a few years back. This time, he led the Utah musicians in a sweeping performance of the composer’s Symphony No. 1, pivoting effortlessly from mood to mood. The harps and low brass were especially inspiring.
The concert opened with a lively performance of Rossini’s overture to “The Barber of Seville.”
Music of Rachmaninoff, Rossini and Elgar
With • Conductor Mark Wigglesworth and pianist Jon Kimura Parker
When • Reviewed Friday, Nov. 17; repeats Saturday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Running time • About 2 hours, including intermission
Tickets • $20-$71; utahsymphony.org