Showing posts with label Utah Symphony. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Utah Symphony. Show all posts

Sunday, February 18, 2018

High Noon in Concert

I can't tell you how much I have been enjoying Utah Symphony's Films in Concert Series.  To see a film on the big screen while the Utah Symphony plays the score live is an incredible sensory experience.  Last night I got to see High Noon while the orchestra played Dimitri Tiomkin's Academy Award winning score.  I recently saw this film on the big screen and the only part of the score I really remembered is the ballad "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'" which is repeated several times.  However, the music is very powerful, as is the film itself!  Convicted killer Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) is on the noon train to Hadleyville with a score to settle with Will Kane (Gary Cooper), the Marshal responsible for convicting him.  The problem is that Kane has recently married Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), a Quaker who abhors violence, and is on his way out of town when he hears the news of Frank's arrival.  He decides to return, against Amy's wishes, and tries to recruit deputies to stand with him to no avail.  He must face Miller and three members of his gang alone at high noon.  As I mentioned, the music is incredibly powerful, particularly the themes played when Kane fights his former Deputy Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) who is bitter at not being promoted to Marshal in a barn, when Amy kills a member of the gang (the audience cheered and applauded at this moment), and during the final confrontation between Kane and Miller.  I also really liked the chimes as the hands on the clock reach noon (the action happens in real time). These concerts have become my favorite thing to do because they combine two of my favorite things: film and the Utah Symphony! High Noon is such an iconic film so I thoroughly enjoyed this concert!

Note:  I am so glad that the Utah Symphony is continuing this series!  I have tickets to see Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl this summer and the films for next season were recently announced:  Ghostbusters, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Casablanca, Star Wars: A New Hope, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I am so excited for all of them!  Go here for more information.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Mozart & Haydn

It was mostly Mozart (with a little Haydn thrown in for good measure) last night at Abravanel Hall and, since Mozart is my very favorite composer, I have been looking forward to this concert all week!  Under the baton of guest conductor Patrick Dupre Quigley, the orchestra began with the Overture to Cosi fan tutte which is such a fun opera.  Listening to this brought back happy memories of attending this opera with my cousin.  Next, soloist Ronald Brautigam joined the orchestra for Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9.  With his mane of curly white hair, Brautigam was so much fun to watch in a brilliant performance.  I especially loved the second movement because it seemed a bit more somber and introspective in tone but I also loved the third movement because is was so lighthearted and playful, especially the call and response between the piano and orchestra.  After the intermission the orchestra played what is probably Mozart's most recognized piece (you can probably hear the opening theme in your head tight now), Eine kleine Nachtmusik.  It is one of my favorite pieces by Mozart and it was absolutely delightful to hear it performed live.  It is so light, airy, and beautiful and listening to it after a long and tiring day made me so happy!  The concert concluded with Haydn's Symphony No. 99.  This piece was also very lighthearted and it really complimented the selections by Mozart very well.  The concert was simply delightful and I highly recommend getting a ticket to tonight's performance featuring the same program (go here).  All of the pieces performed are very accessible so this would be a great choice for those who have never been to a symphony concert before (check out this post for a guide to listening to classical music).

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fischer Conducts Rachmaninoff & Stravinsky

Most Friday nights you can find me at Abravanel Hall attending a Utah Symphony concert.  I go so often that the ushers recognize me and one even called me by name last night!  She explained to the couple ahead of me in line, in minute detail, where they were sitting but when I presented my ticket she greeted me like a long lost friend and said that I certainly didn't need any help finding my seat!  It made me laugh!  How could I miss a concert featuring Rachmaninoff?  This is the third concert this season to feature one of my very favorite composers and I couldn't be happier.  Last night's concert began with Funeral Song by Stravinsky.  Thierry Fischer addressed the audience for the second week in a row (I find him to be utterly charming) to tell us that this is the first time that the orchestra has ever played this piece in Abravanel Hall.  Stravinsky wrote it in honor of Rimsky-Korsakov and I loved it because it was very somber and atmospheric.  Next came Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1. Squeal!  I love this piece so much because it is so dramatic and emotional.  The orchestra was joined by Stephen Hough on piano and he was absolutely brilliant!  I loved watching his fingers fly across the keyboard!  After the intermission the orchestra played The Firebird by Stravinsky.  This was commissioned by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballet Russes and tells the story of how Prince Ivan spares the life of the Firebird and, in gratitude, it returns when summoned by Ivan to defeat the evil Koschei the Immortal.  There were supertitles projected on the screen to tell the story but I could understand what was happening just by listening to the music because it evoked so many images, especially during the "Infernal Dance."  I really liked the themes played by the flute (to me the flute represented the Firebird), the use of three harps to create a magical world, and a trumpet fanfare performed from the balcony.  Once again, it was a wonderful concert and I definitely recommend getting a ticket to tonight's performance (go here for tickets).

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Hilary Hahn plays Dvorak's Violin Concerto

Now that the holidays are over (I will resume my winter break movie commentaries tomorrow) I went back to my usual Friday night ritual!  I found myself at Abravanel Hall for a thrilling Utah Symphony concert featuring the music of Haydn and Dvorak.  Despite what it said in the program, the orchestra began with the exciting and energetic Slavonic Dance No. 8 with an equally energetic Thierry Fischer on the podium!  After this piece, Fischer addressed the audience telling us that a new year should be filled with contrasts and surprises and so the orchestra would alternate between the movements of Haydn's Symphony No. 8 and Dvorak's Slavonic Dances (six of them).  This made for a very lively evening as I eagerly anticipated what I would hear next because I kind of lost track of which was which and just enjoyed the music without overthinking it.  The two pieces worked surprisingly well together and I loved Fischer's enthusiasm!  My favorite was the second movement of the Haydn because it is romantic and contemplative with just a hint of melancholy and the orchestra played it with a lot of expression.  After the intermission the orchestra returned to play Dvorak's Violin Concerto with Hilary Hahn, a frequent guest of the Utah Symphony, as the soloist.  It is easy to see why Abravanel Hall was packed almost to capacity because Hahn is such a dynamic and brilliant performer.  I loved watching her fingers fly across her violin and I definitely enjoyed her performance.  So did the rest of the crowd who jumped to their feat in a thunderous ovation!  She was brought back to the stage numerous times and even favored us with a beautiful encore.  It was a spectacular evening and I recommend getting a ticket for tonight's performance of the same program (go here).

Note:  I almost always get a ticket to the first Utah Symphony concert of the year because it is usually so hard to go back to school after the holidays and I need something to look forward to in order to make it through!    However, I had a great week with my students so this concert was the cherry on top!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Concert

Last Christmas the Utah Symphony showed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on the big screen with the score played live by the orchestra.  I absolutely loved it and, at the time, I hoped that they would continue with the whole series of films.  It seems as if they are because this year they showed the next film, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and I got to see it last night!  This film follows Harry Potter's second year at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when the Heir of Slytherin opens the Chamber of Secrets which causes several students (as well as Mrs. Norris!) to be petrified after viewing the monster that is unleashed.  It was so much fun to see this on the big screen again and having the Utah Symphony play the lush score composed by John Williams added so much to the experience.  There was not an empty seat at Abravanel Hall and the crowd, many in costume, was extremely enthusiastic.  There were cheers and applause when every character appeared on screen for the first time (especially Professor Snape) and for all of Harry's adventures including the flying Ford Anglia, the Polyjuice Potion, the spider Aragorn, and the battle with the basilisk.  I especially enjoyed seeing Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) because they were so little and I thought Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh) was hilarious!  It was such a fun night!  If you have not seen a movie in concert with a live orchestra I highly recommend it if you have the chance!  The Utah Symphony just announced that they will be showing Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl in June and I am really excited!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony

It was an evening featuring the music of Camille Saint-Saens last night at Abravanel Hall and it was absolutely lovely.  Several years ago one of my colleagues, knowing how much I enjoy classical music, recommended a concert featuring Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony and I enjoyed it immensely.  Now I try to see it whenever I can and when I learned that the Utah Symphony would be performing it this season I immediately got a ticket.  While I picked this concert for the Organ Symphony, I really loved the other Saint-Saens pieces that were performed as well.  The orchestra began with the "Bacchanale" from the opera Samson and Delilah.  I had never heard this before and it is incredibly exotic and stirring.  The finale is absolutely spectacular featuring a crescendo of timpani!  This was followed by Trois Tableaux symphoniques d'apres La Foi, which is incidental music for a play of the same name by Eugene Brieux, and I have to say that this is now one of my favorite pieces because it is beautiful.  I loved the themes played by the harp which are also incredibly exotic.  Harpist Louise Vickerman gave me goosebumps!  I also really loved the themes played by the woodwinds and the trombone solo.  After the intermission the orchestra was joined by Paul Jacobs, the chair of the organ department at The Julliard School, for Symphony No. 3, better known as the Organ Symphony.  It was magnificent!  I especially loved the second movement because there is a theme played by both the organ and the strings in unison with an accompaniment of timpani and cymbals.  So dramatic!  I enjoyed this entire concert so much and I recommend getting a ticket to tonight's performance of the same program (go here for tickets).

Note:  This concert was recorded for commercial release as part of the Utah Symphony's project to become the first American symphony to record all five of Saint-Saens' symphonies.  I will definitely be purchasing these CDs because Saint-Saens is becoming one of my favorite composers.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

I have been anticipating last night's Utah Symphony concert for weeks!  It featured one of my favorite guest conductors, Mark Wigglesworth (with a name like that how can you not love him?), one of my favorite soloists, Jon Kimura Parker, and one of my favorite pieces by one of my favorite composers, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff!  It was worth the wait because it was a never-to-be-forgotten night at Abravanel Hall (stop reading right now and go here for a ticket to tonight's performance of the same program).  The orchestra began with the Overture to Rossini's The Barber of Seville, an opera I really enjoy.  As wonderful as this performance was, honestly, I could hardly contain myself waiting for Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  I love this piece so much because it is deeply emotional and lush but I especially love the 18th variation (it is featured in the movie Somewhere in Time) because it is so unbearably romantic and I was literally swooning.  Parker gave an incredibly passionate performance and I loved watching his fingers fly up and down the keyboard.  The audience was also thrilled with his performance and gave him a thundering ovation after which he played "Blues Etude" by Oscar Peterson as an encore!  After the intermission the orchestra played Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1.  I really loved the stately theme (Elgar also composed Pomp and Circumstance) played in variations throughout the piece.  The stirring conclusion (I loved the harps) was a wonderful way to end an amazing concert.

Note:  So far I have spent every weekend in November at Abravanel Hall.  Next weekend I will be taking a break for another one of my passions: hockey!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Mozart's Great Mass

November is shaping up to be a wonderful month for Utah Symphony concerts!  Last week I got to hear the music of Rachmaninoff and last night I got to hear the music of Mozart (both of whom are favorites of mine).  The orchestra began last night's concert with Four Preludes and Serious Songs by Johannes Brahms with an arrangement by Detlev Glanert.  I really enjoyed this piece because it is a dark and mournful meditation on death which ultimately ends in triumph.  The orchestra was joined by Patrick Carfizzi who gave an incredible vocal performance and, of course, I really loved the woodwinds.  After the intermission the audience heard a magnificent performance of Mozart's "Great Mass."  I think that the Requiem Mass will always be my favorite piece by Mozart but this is definitely a close second.  The orchestra was joined by the University of Utah Chamber Choir and The Utah Symphony Chorus and soloists Celena Shafer, Sarah Shafer, Thomas Cooley, and Patrick Carfizzi.  The soloists were amazing, especially Celena Shafer who was last seen by Utah audiences as Musetta in Utah Opera's production of La Boheme.  The music in this mass is so beautiful and so powerful.  Listening to all of those voices was almost overwhelming so sometimes I just closed my eyes and let the music carry me away.  It was a beautiful concert, one that will be repeated at Abravanel Hall tonight.  I definitely recommend getting a ticket (go here).

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances

If you read this blog on a regular basis you surely know by now that I absolutely love all of the Russian composers and that Rachmaninoff is my very favorite of all the Russians (with Tchaikovsky a close second).  So a program featuring his Symphonic Dances was definitely on the top of my list when I was creating my season package.  However, this concert also featured two pieces which made me think about putting Maurice Ravel on my list of favorite composers.  When I think of Ravel I automatically think of Bolero, which I love, but the pieces performed last night were absolutely wonderful as well.  The orchestra began with Ma Mere l'Oye (Mother Goose) and it was so enchanting and whimsical, telling the stories of Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, The Princess of the Pagodas, Beauty and the Beast, and The Fairy Garden. I especially loved it when the instruments would mimic the sounds of nature, such as chirping.  I really, really loved the themes played by the harp in this piece!  The orchestra also played Ravel's Tzigane, which means gypsy.  I was absolutely blown away by the lengthy opening which featured the solo violin, played by Utah native William Hagen.  His performance was incredibly passionate just like a gypsy.  Once again I loved the harp in this piece (Ravel must have been in love with a harpist at one time).  Hagen also joined the orchestra for the stirring Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for Violin and Orchestra by Camille Saint-Saens (a composer already on my list of favorites).  What I loved most about this piece is that it starts slow with themes played mostly by the solo violin repeated at intervals and then it becomes a dazzling display of virtuosity.  Hagen's bow literally flew across his violin!  Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances came after the intermission and all I can say is "Wow!"  This piece always suggests a longing for Russia to me and I think it is romantic and emotional.  I really love all of the themes played by the woodwinds  and the horns.  The orchestra played it beautifully and I had tears in my eyes at its conclusion!  It was a spectacular evening of music at Abravanel Hall last night and this program will be performed again tonight.  I highly recommend getting a ticket (go here).

Note:  I get more Rachmaninoff in two weeks because the Utah Symphony will be performing Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  Sigh!  You should probably get tickets to that concert, too!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Broadway Divas

Last night the Utah Symphony was joined by Christina Bianco, Christina DeCicco, N'Kenge, and Kristen Plumley for an amazing evening of Broadway standards.  I loved this concert so much and every song gave me goosebumps!  The orchestra, under the baton of guest conductor Jack Everly, began with the Overture to Gypsy.  Kristen Plumley was the first diva to perform with a beautiful rendition of "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady.  Then Christina DeCicco gave an affecting performance of "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables and I may or may not have had tears in my eyes at the end of it!  N'Kenge delivered a sultry "Summertime" from Porgy & Bess and the orchestra played the Overture from Chicago.  One of my very favorite moments came next when DeCicco belted out "Defying Gravity" from Wicked.  I think they are still looking for the roof of Abravanel Hall because she definitely blew it off!  Before the intermission, all of the divas performed "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from Show Boat which was fantastic.  The orchestra returned with the Overture to Funny Girl then another one of my favorite moments came when N'Kenge sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls.  All I can say is, "Wow!"  Plumley gave a powerful rendition of "Think of Me" from The Phantom of the Opera, as Carlotta, of course, and she was in full diva mode!  Christina Bianco gave some hilarious impersonations of famous divas singing their signature songs including: Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters, Celine Dion, Judy Garland, and Kristen Chenowith.  This brought the house down!  DeCicco and Plumley gave a lovely performance of "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love" from West Side Story then N'Kenge and DeCicco sang "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time," respectively, from Cabaret.  To finish the set, Bianco sang "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame, which is a song I had never heard before.  For the finale, all four of the divas sang "Let It Go" from Frozen.  This was so fun for me to hear after seeing the musical in Denver last month!  I always love the Bravo Broadway concerts programmed by the Utah Symphony and this one was especially wonderful! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert

I am a huge fan of Utah Symphony's Films in Concert series because it is so much fun to watch a movie on the big screen at Abravanel Hall while the orchestra performs the score live!  Last night I had the opportunity to see The Nightmare Before Christmas and, frankly, I had been looking forward to it for months.  It was the perfect way to get excited for Halloween (my favorite holiday).  Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and leader of Halloween Town, is getting bored with scaring everyone with the same old tricks every year, so when he accidentally discovers Christmas Town while wandering in the woods, he decides that Christmas is a more appealing holiday and that he should take it over this year.  Santa Claus is kidnapped and all of the residents of Halloween Town are put to work making terrifying toys to disastrous effect.  Will Santa Claus be able to save Christmas in time?  I love this movie because of the spectacular world-building using stop-motion animation.  Only Tim Burton could dream up such a macabre, yet strangely enchanting, world filled with quirky characters and dazzling images on the screen that are so inventive and imaginative that you cannot look away.  Danny Elfman's iconic score is absolutely brilliant and having the Utah Symphony play it live was amazing.  I enjoyed this so much!  It will be shown again at Abravanel Hall tonight and tickets may be purchased here.

Note:  I wish that I could have seen The Nightmare Before Christmas at the El Capitan Theatre (it is screened there every October) while I was in Los Angeles but I ran out of time!  I will just have to go back!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Fischer Conducts Saint-Saens & Dvorak

Last night I spent another lovely evening at Abravanel Hall listening to the Utah Symphony play works by Berlioz, Saint-Saens, and Dvorak.  For those of you keeping score at home, this was the third Friday in a row that I found myself similarly occupied and, honestly, I could spend every Friday night at Abravanel Hall (next week I will be out of town).  The orchestra played Roman Carnival Overture by Hector Berlioz, Symphony No. 2 by Camille Saint-Saens (which was recorded for commercial release!), and Concerto for Cello and Orchestra by Antonin Dvorak with Harriet Krijgh as the soloist.  All three pieces had beautiful and lively melodies and I found myself swept away by the music and there were moments when I was overcome.  Over the years I have come to love the music of Saint-Saens more and more so I really enjoyed hearing a piece I wasn't familiar with (I really love his Organ Symphony which will be performed in December!) and I was so impressed with Krijgh's performance of the Dvorak piece because she was so expressive.  I highly recommend getting a ticket to tonight's performance of the same program (tickets may be purchased here).  I guarantee a lovely evening of beautiful music!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Augustin Hadelich Performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto

Last night I found myself at Abravanel Hall for the second time this week and, since I love the Utah Symphony, this was a very happy circumstance!  Last night was the opening concert for the 2017-2018 Season and it featured works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Strauss which, in my opinion, was a great way to start what looks to be a great season.  The orchestra began with the Overture to Don Giovanni by Mozart.  Why yes that is my very favorite opera so, as you can imagine, I definitely enjoyed this piece.  The music is so dramatic and it gave me goosebumps.  Next, Augustin Hadelich joined the orchestra for Beethoven's Violin Concerto.  I always enjoy it when he comes to town and, once again, his performance was simply brilliant!  He was so passionate and the speed with which his fingers moved in the third movement was mind-blowing.  The audience immediately jumped to their feet in a thunderous ovation which prompted Hadelich to perform Paganini's Caprice No. 21 to everyone's delight.  After the intermission, the program concluded with two tone poems by Strauss.  Don Juan was very tempestuous and I particularly enjoyed the theme played by the horns.  Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks was lighthearted with fun and playful themes by a solo horn and then the woodwinds.  I really enjoyed myself this evening and I am definitely looking forward to many amazing concerts during the upcoming season.  This program will be performed again tonight and tickets may be purchased here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

An Evening with Renee Fleming

Last night I had the incredible opportunity to hear Renee Fleming, one of the most acclaimed opera stars in the world, perform with the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera Chorus at a benefit concert in celebration of the Utah Opera's 40th Anniversary and to raise money for Utah Opera's education programs.  Wonderful doesn't even begin to describe this concert.  I saw Renee Fleming perform a Christmas concert with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir several years ago so I knew I was in for a lovely evening when I bought my ticket!  The orchestra began with the Overture to La Forza Del Destino by Verdi and then Thierry Fischer introduced Renee Fleming to thunderous applause.  She sang Four Last Songs by Strauss and, even though I was unfamiliar with this piece, I loved her performance, especially "At Sunset" which was mournful, atmospheric, and gave me goosebumps.  Then the Utah Opera Chorus sang a rousing rendition of "Vedi le fosche" from Verdi's Il Travatore.  I wouldn't consider myself an expert in opera but I definitely recognized this piece and it was spectacular!  Fleming returned to the stage to perform the mad scene from Mefistofele by Boito, "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi (another instantly recognizable piece), and Mattinata by Leoncavallo.  As much as I loved the opera pieces, I think my favorite songs of the evening were "Somewhere" and "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story by Bernstein.  The former was achingly beautiful and the latter was spirited and playful.  Then Fleming told the audience that she really wanted to find a contemporary piece that would work with her voice and, interestingly enough, she found the song "Virus" by Bjork!   Her rendition was awesome!  The final piece brought the crowd to their feet: "Libiamo" from La Traviata, one of my favorite operas, performed with Utah Opera Resident Artist Christopher Oglesby!  I was so sad when this concert came to an end but I am thrilled that I got to be a part of such an enchanting evening, made all the better by knowing that all of the proceeds are going to such a great cause!

Note:  Seriously, listen to Bjork's version of "Virus" and imagine what that sounded like with Renee Fleming and a full orchestra!  Mind blown!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Raiders of the Lost Ark in Concert

Last night I had so much fun watching the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark on the big screen at Abravanel Hall as the Utah Symphony performed the score by John Williams live!  I love this movie concert series that the Utah Symphony has started (go here and here) so much because listening to the music played live makes the movie so much more entertaining.  I may or may not have cheered out loud when we heard the iconic fanfare for the first time as Indiana Jones runs through the jungle.  It has been a really long time since I've seen this movie about an adventurous archaeologist and his quest to locate the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.  I was my nephew's age when this first came out and it is really the first big epic adventure that I remember watching in the theater.  It felt just as exciting to me last night as it did then.  I'm starting to respect Steven Spielberg more and more because, just like with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I think the special effects in this movie hold up incredibly well.  There are so many scenes that I loved such as when Indiana shoots a man who dramatically brandishes a sword at him, when he fights one of the Nazis near the propeller of a plane, when he crawls underneath a moving truck, when he is trapped in a tomb full of snakes (this gave me nightmares when I was a kid), and when the Ark burns the faces off of the Nazis.  I also thought it was really clever to use a red line across a map to indicate a long journey and I liked the use of shadows (that fedora is instantly recognizable).  It is such a great movie and the orchestra played the music magnificently under the baton of guest conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos.  It was a really fun way to begin the weekend.  The next movie in this series is The Nightmare Before Christmas in October and tickets may be purchased here.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Leslie Odom, Jr. at Deer Valley

Last night I went to Deer Valley to see Leslie Odom, Jr. in concert and it was fabulous!  I really love seeing performances outside, especially in the mountains where the temperature is much cooler than in the city, and if the concert features the Utah Symphony and a member of the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, you know it is going to be a wonderful evening.  Odom, Jr. (who played Aaron Burr) began with "Wait For It" from Hamilton and talk about goosebumps!  It gave me such a thrill because it reminded me of seeing him perform it on Broadway.  There was an enormous crowd and he joked that he didn't know there were so many fans of Law & Order: SVU (he had a small recurring role).  He told the crowd that he would perform some more songs from Hamilton but he was going to wait until the end so people wouldn't leave!  He continued with quite a few songs from his self-titled album including "Look for the Silver Lining," "Brazil," "I Know That You Know," "Joey, Joey, Joey," and "Autumn Leaves," which is my favorite song from the album.  Then he sang a medley of Nat King Cole songs which just about blew my mind: "Mona Lisa," "Straighten Up and Fly Right," and "Unforgettable."  I must say that his version of "Unforgettable" brought a tear to my eye!  He had his wife, Nicolette Robinson, come on stage to sing a song called "What Are We Waiting For?" which was beautiful.  His wife can definitely sing, as well!  I'm surprised that I didn't know this but Odom, Jr. was also in the musical RENT, which is another favorite of mine.  He said that when he was young, RENT was his Hamilton and he had every song memorized!  He auditioned without ever imagining that he would get the role!  He sang an incredible version of "Without You" which I absolutely loved.  His voice is so smooth and he makes it look so effortless!  As promised, he ended the concert with "Dear Theodosia" and "The Room Where It Happens" from Hamilton which brought the crowd to their feet!  So fun!  Odom, Jr. came back to sing "Forever Young" as an encore and I sincerely wished that he could have kept going for several more hours.  This was an amazing concert and I'm so glad that I got to go!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

La La Land in Concert

Saturday night I went to see the movie La La Land on the big screen at the Usana Amphitheatre with the Academy Award winning score by Justin Hurwitz performed live on stage by the Utah Symphony.  It was so much fun!  I love seeing performances outside during the summer (Saturday was an absolutely perfect night) and I am a huge fan of showing movies with the score played live by an orchestra (I certainly enjoyed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone last December).  La La Land was one of my favorite movies last year (I forget how many times I saw it in the theater) and I loved it just as much seeing it again on the big screen.  It feels like such an old-fashioned Hollywood musical to me and I was even more impressed with Ryan Gosling (I go back and forth on how I feel about Stone's singing).  I also had a different take on the ending this time around.  Mia and Sebastian choose their dreams rather than their relationship but there is a montage which shows what their lives would have been like if they had chosen each other instead.  I've always thought that they would have been much happier if they had chosen their relationship but, after this viewing, I realized that many of their dreams would have been fulfilled as well.  It is such a great movie!  The score is absolutely magical and, of course, I enjoyed the piano solos (Sebastian is a jazz pianist) but I was also impressed by the themes played by the clarinet and flute and there was a fabulous trumpet solo.  The Utah Symphony played it beautifully under the baton of guest conductor Emil de Cou.  I had a huge smile on my face the whole time and I may or may not have sung along with "City of Stars."  I would highly recommend seeing a movie performed with a live orchestra if you have the chance.  I will be seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in September, The Nightmare Before Christmas in October, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in December, all with the Utah Symphony, and I am very excited about all of them.  Go here for more information about these concerts.

Note:  Utah Symphony patrons comport themselves very differently than the usual crowd at the Usana Amphitheatre!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Rite of Spring

Last night's Utah Symphony concert was the final one of the 2016-2017 season.  In my opinion it has been an outstanding season as it has featured so many incredible performances of some of my favorite pieces.  Last night was no exception.  The orchestra began with a piece by Tchaikovsky called Souvenir d'un lieu cher (Memory of a dear place).  It consists of three little vignettes which were originally intended for a violin concerto but they were abandoned and later orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov.  I thought all three of them were beautiful with a lovely performance by soloist Simone Porter on violin.  Next the orchestra played Ameriques by Edgard Varese and it was quite spectacular.  This piece was written when Varese moved to New York City after World War I.  He wanted to capture the cacophony of industrialization and one of the main themes involved a siren!  I was very impressed by the sheer number of musicians on the stage (there were 15 musicians on percussion instruments alone!).  After the intermission the orchestra concluded the concert with The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky and it was amazing.  This piece, as the same implies, is about a pagan ritual celebrating the advent of spring and I think it is wild and exuberant.  I really loved all of the themes played by the brass and the timpani and I could definitely see young girls dancing with abandon as I listened.  I really enjoyed this concert (especially since I am now officially on summer vacation) and I recommend getting a ticket to tonight's concert featuring the same program (go here).

Note:  The Utah Symphony will be performing concerts at various outdoor venues during the summer.  I am particularly looking forward to La La Land performed in concert at the Usana Amphitheater and to Leslie Odom, Jr. (from the original cast of Hamilton) with the Utah Symphony at the Deer Valley Amphitheater.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rhapsody in Blue

It was standing room only at Abravanel Hall last night.  The Utah Symphony and guest conductor Kazuki Yamada performed a wildly entertaining concert featuring two quintessentially American composers as well as a quintessentially Russian one and I really enjoyed it.  The orchestra began with El Salon Mexico by Aaron Copland (which was particularly appropriate for Cinco de Mayo).  This piece is based on Mexican folk music and is meant to represent an imaginary dance hall full of dancing couples.  I thought it was lively, exuberant, and full of whimsy and it was a lot of fun to listen to it.  Next came the popular classical jazz piece Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin with pianist Benyamin Nuss.  A thrill went through the audience as we heard the instantly recognizable glissando from a solo clarinet (I have always thought that Tad Calcara, Utah Symphony's Principal Clarinet, would be right at home in a jazz band from the 1920s) and that feeling continued as the theme was repeated in various forms as the piece progressed.  Nuss was absolutely amazing and I honestly can't tell you what was more interesting to watch:  his fingers flying up and down the keyboard or Yamada hopping about on the podium!  After the intermission the orchestra played Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  I didn't recognize this piece by name but as soon as I heard the big booming notes from the brass I remembered hearing it before.  I loved it!  I especially loved the beautiful theme repeated by a lone violin (Concertmaster Madeline Adkins played brilliantly) and a harp which is meant to represent Scheherazade beguiling her husband with tales of the Orient.  The various movements correspond, loosely, to The Thousand and One Nights and the music is incredibly dramatic.  When the piece ended, the man sitting next to me exclaimed, "That was beautiful!"  I certainly agree!  If you can get a ticket (there were very few empty seats last night) to tonight's performance of the same program, I highly suggest you do so (go here).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Barber's Violin Concerto

I feel like I am making progress in my appreciation of classical music.  Last night's Utah Symphony concert not only featured a piece that I actually recognized but it also featured a conductor that I really like!  Yeah, I know conductors by name!  Jun Markl is a frequent guest with the Utah Symphony and I have always really enjoyed his interpretations.  I think he is elegance personified on the podium!  When I learned that Markl would be performing with the the Utah Symphony and that the concert would feature Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, I had to get a ticket and I am so glad I did!  The orchestra began with the aforementioned Adagio for Strings and I loved it!  It is mournful and melancholy (Why do I like such sad pieces?) but I think it is exquisitely beautiful!  I love how the theme is developed by the violins and then is picked up by the violas and then the cellos and then, finally, by the basses.  As I listened I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me and I was filled with such a sense of yearning.  I enjoyed this moving piece very much!  Next, the orchestra played Barber's Concerto for Violin with soloist Karen Gomyo.  I was not familiar with this piece but I loved it.  I thought it was incredibly romantic and Gomyo gave a very passionate performance, especially in the final movement.  The second movement featured a theme played by a solo oboe which gave me goosebumps!  After the intermission, the orchestra played Piano Quartet No. 1 by Johannes Brahms arranged by Arnold Schoenberg for the full orchestra.  I especially liked the final movement which was inspired by a gypsy dancing and included a fun theme played by the solo clarinet and a theme played by the xylophone.  The same program will be performed again tonight (go here for tickets) and I highly recommend it for a chance to see Jun Markl in action!
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