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

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!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pictures at an Exhibition

Last night's Utah Symphony concert featured one of my very favorite pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky.  It seems like the Utah Symphony programmed the 2016-2017 season with me in mind as they have featured so many of my favorites (Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, Mozart's Requiem, and now Pictures at an Exhibition).  The concert began with Military March No. 1 from Pomp and Circumstance by Edward Elgar which is instantly familiar to anyone who has ever been through a commencement ceremony.  I enjoyed hearing it and I am looking forward to hearing it again in seven weeks (but who's counting?) when my seniors are unleashed on the world!  The concert continued with Elgar's Violin Concerto with soloist Fumiaki Miura.  I loved this piece so much, especially the second movement which is almost unbearably beautiful and incredibly emotional.  Miura played brilliantly and received a rousing standing ovation!  After the intermission, the orchestra played Mussorgsky's masterpiece which, as the name implies, was written to commemorate the exhibition of ten paintings by Victor Hartmann after his death.  There are ten pieces which correspond to each of the paintings and these are connected by a Promenade (in several iterations played by different sections of the orchestra) which represents walking through the gallery from picture to picture.  I had goosebumps when I heard the opening fanfare in the first Promenade played by the brass!  It is amazing to me how you can almost visualize each painting as the orchestra plays.  I love each piece but I think my favorite is for the painting Byldo which experts believe is a group of oxen pulling a cart (many of Hartmann's paintings haven't survived).  I loved the theme played by the tenor tuba and the timpani because it is so atmospheric.  I always try to hear this piece whenever it is performed and I certainly enjoyed it last night.  You can hear it when this program is performed again tonight (go here for tickets) and I definitely recommend that you do so!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

An Evening of Bach

I spontaneously decided to get a ticket to last night's Utah Symphony concert featuring the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and I am so glad that I did because it was wonderful.  Guest conductor Richard Egarr was charm personified as he spoke to the audience about the various pieces.  He not only conducted the orchestra, but he also played the piano which was amazing and so much fun to watch.  The concert began with Suite No. 3 and the price of admission was entirely worth it for the second movement of this piece alone!  It was so beautiful and evocative and, as Egarr mentioned in his commentary, instantly recognizable to me.  I was completely undone by it!  I also really enjoyed the theme played by the trumpets in the third movement, which Egarr described as angelic rather than militaristic.  Next, the orchestra played Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with Egarr on piano, Madeline Adkins on violin, and Mercedes Smith on flute.  All three of them were amazing, especially in the second movement where they were featured without the rest of the orchestra.  After the intermission, the orchestra played Concerto No. 1 and I really enjoyed the "pyrotechnics," as Egarr described it, on the piano.  Once again, I especially liked the second movement (what is it, structurally, that appeals to me about the second movement in most pieces?) because it was very moody and atmospheric.  The concert concluded with Suite No. 4 and this piece was so pleasant.  I kept picturing couples twirling on the dance floor in an opulent palace.  It was such a lovely evening and I highly recommend that you get a ticket (go here) to tonight's concert which will feature the same program.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Pink Martini

Pink Martini has been to Salt Lake City several times to perform with the Utah Symphony but I have always had a conflict whenever they have been in town.  When I saw that they were included in the 2016-2017 lineup, I made sure to get a ticket and have eagerly been anticipating last night's concert for months.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  In fact, it was probably more fun than should be allowed in SLC on a Tuesday!  Pink Martini is a self-described "little orchestra" with 12 members, plus the incredible China Forbes on vocals, created by Thomas Lauderdale, a classically trained pianist with political aspirations, who was dismayed by the bland Muzak he heard at political functions and thought he could improve upon what he heard.  The group he put together is anything but bland!  Their repertoire includes classical, Latin, jazz, pop, and world music and their eclectic mixture was a hit!  They began with "Amado Mio," with a performance by Forbes which gave me goosebumps, and they ended with "Brazil," which featured the American Fork High School marching band and basically turned Abravanel Hall into Carnival in Rio!  In between, they played songs in Spanish, German, Turkish, Armenian, and Japanese along with several in French and, at one point, had the audience singing along in French!  Before each number, Lauderdale, an enthusiastic master of ceremonies, would ask for members in the audience who spoke the language of the song to come to the stage to sing back-up.  The Armenian group even gave an impromptu performance of another folk song.  The highlight of the concert, for me, was when Forbes sang "Song to the Moon" from the opera Rusalka.  This just about blew my mind because it was so beautiful!  Even though I did not know the words to this aria, I had tears in my eyes!  Rusalka just went to the top of my list of operas that I want to see!  Another favorite moment came when Forbes did the traditional introduction of the band members after which they literally introduced every member of the Utah Symphony!  I thought that was hilarious.  I had so much fun at this concert and I will definitely make sure I get a ticket every time Pink Martini comes to town.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Brahms' Symphony No. 4

Last night, for the second weekend in a row, I found myself at Abravanel Hall eagerly anticipating another Utah Symphony concert.  In my opinion, you can't go wrong when you start the weekend with the Utah Symphony.  Last night's concert began with Introduction, Theme and Variations by Johann Nepomuk Hummel.  I was not at all familiar with this composer (to me, Hummels are the figurines that my Aunt June collected) but I absolutely loved this piece because it reminded me a lot of Mozart.  It featured an oboe and the soloist, Francois Leleux, was incredible.  He played with so much passion and exuberance and it looked like he was having so much fun.  It was certainly a lot of fun for the audience to watch his dramatic expressions and gestures.  Who knew that the oboe was so cool?  Next, Leleux joined the orchestra once again for the U.S. premiere of Aquateinte by Michael Jarrell, a piece commissioned by the Utah Symphony.  It is brilliant and I really liked that it featured so many instruments.  I was particularly fascinated by the myriad of percussion instruments (played by just two musicians).  After the intermission, the orchestra played Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms.  I actually recognized much of this piece (maybe it has been programmed by the Utah Symphony before?) and I liked it because, even though it is quite lively,  it is a bit melancholy.  It was another lovely evening at Abravanel Hall and I highly recommend spending part of your weekend there, too.  This program will be performed again tonight (go here for tickets).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mozart's Requiem

The very first Utah Symphony concert I attended, back in college, was a performance of Mozart's Requiem.  It is has been my very favorite piece of music ever since I heard it in the movie Amadeus and I always take every opportunity that I can to hear it performed live.  Last night I was able to hear the Utah Symphony perform it once again and it was magnificent!  I find the mythology surrounding the composition of this piece to be fascinating.  The fact that Mozart died before it was complete makes one wonder whether he knew he was dying and, therefore, writing the mass for himself.  It is almost as if Mozart was wrestling with Death itself as he wrote the music that lifts the soul up to God.  I find the music to be incredibly stirring and I especially love the "Confutatis" and the "Lacrymosa" (which I performed in college when I was in the choir.)  The orchestra was joined by the Utah Symphony Chorus and the University of Utah Chamber Choir as well as soloists Joelle Harvey, Sarah Coit, Benjamin Butterfield, and Derrick Parker and they performed this piece beautifully.  I closed my eyes many times during the performance and let the music carry me away.  I was completely overcome by the end of it!  After the intermission, the orchestra continued with Symphony No. 4 by Charles Ives and this piece was epic, to say the least.  When Ives composed this symphony, he was concerned with philosophical questions about existence and it reflects both chaos and beauty.  It was sometimes cacophonous with more performers (and instruments) on the stage than I have ever seen before playing complicated melodies with different rhythms (there were even two conductors) over top of each other.  However, underneath the turmoil was peace and I especially liked the third movement.  It was definitely a never-to-be-forgotten evening at Abravanel Hall last night and I highly recommend getting a ticket (go here) to tonight's performance of the same program.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

I interrupt my regularly scheduled commentaries on the movies I saw over winter break to tell you about the wonderful concert I saw last night at Abravanel Hall (and suggest that you go here to get a ticket to tonight's performance of the same program).  The Utah Symphony began with Symphony No. 2 by Charles Ives.  Ives is a quintessentially American composer and, just like the European composers who referenced epic myths in their works, he used the folktales and melodies of New England with which his audiences would have been very familiar.  Modern-day audiences enjoy finding all of the references (I was only able to recognize "America the Beautiful").  I really enjoyed this piece, especially the second movement which featured a beautiful theme played by a solo cello.  After the intermission, the orchestra played Variations for Orchestra by Anton Webern.  I was unfamiliar with both this piece and this composer and, on the surface it seemed very discordant, but underneath it there was a sort of beauty in the chaos.   Then came the piece I had been looking forward to all week: Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.  I really love the Russian composers in general and Tchaikovsky in particular and this piece is brilliant.  I absolutely loved it, especially the second movement because it is so passionate and mournful with a lovely theme played by a solo clarinet.  Violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley performed it magnificently (there was thunderous applause after the first movement).  I find it ironic that the violinist for whom the piece was composed declared it "unplayable" because Bendix-Balgley made it look effortless.  He favored us with an encore by playing a piece by Bach which was lovely.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself last night, despite having a terrible cold.  Ugh!

Note:  My movie commentaries will resume tomorrow.  There are three more!
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