Keith Lockhart Leads Utah Symphony with an Inspiring Walton and Smetana

February 23, 2010

Keith_Lockhart_Utah_SymphonyKeith Lockhart returned to Salt Lake City this month to conduct two weeks of performances with the Utah Symphony that include works by Walton, Smetana, Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff.

In November, Maestro Lockhart returned to the Utah Symphony as Music Director Emeritus, having recently completed an 11-year tenure with the USUO organization. Under the baton of the Maestro, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Utah Symphony performed Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection”.

Having lived in Boston for the past 15 years, my only exposure to Maestro Lockhart was with him leading the Boston Pops, highlighted by the yearly 4th of July concert and fireworks celebration on the Boston Esplanade. Seeing him conduct non-Pops symphonic works was something I was looking forward to.  Resurrection was an evening of firsts for me and seeing the Choir in the Tabernacle under Maestro Lockhart was nothing short of moving.  It was an amazing evening.

This past weekend, Lockhart presented patrons with a hefty evening of music. First up was William Walton’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra with Cellist Julie Albers.  It was only my second cello concerto and I found it to be interesting if not intriguing.

Julie_AlbersI’ve seen fewer than 20 concertos and my knowledge of  the repertoire is limited.  Having heard a variety of piano, violin and flute concertos, I’m unaccustomed to hearing a large amount of percussion in a concerto.  It seemed a bit odd to me. Oddity aside, I enjoyed the piece.

Albers plays beautifully and I loved watching her produce such interesting sounds with the cello! She has gorgeous technique and it was a pleasure to hear, and see, her play with passion and what I perceived to be auditory perfection. Watching her play that low, final note of the concerto with simply the bow and making it last and last and last was pretty amazing.

For the second half of the program, Maestro Lockhart chose a piece that is often performed as a single program for the evening.  Smetana’s Má Vlast is a series of six symphonic poems that combined lasts approximately 75 minutes.  I don’t think I’ve been to a symphony where any given piece lasted longer than 50 minutes, so I was prepared for a long evening!

Vlast’s second poem, Vltavo, or The Moldau, is probably the most famous of the six. It has a familiar melody and while I may not have known this actual composer or his work, I definitely had heard it before.  It’s a beautiful piece and it’s easy to envision the water of the Moldau River in its many forms and lives.

When I listen to symphonic works, and especially when I see them performed live, I have found that while each composer presents something different and new to my ears, there are specific things that keep me interested and inspired.  I find that I most enjoy a piece that has passion and substance.  That may sound a little silly because no piece or composer is lacking either.  However, how this is presented affects me.  While I love a pretty, soothing and soft piece, I want to see and hear a big, bold and voracious symphonic work that keeps my eyes darting from the conductor to the musicians to the instruments.  I want be on the edge of my seat, anticipating the unknown or awaiting the climax or finale of the movement.  I want to be riveted, I want to be inspired.

Vlast inspired me.

Vlast ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite live performances.  I did sit on the edge of my seat, my eyes did dart back and forth, and I wondered what could be next!  Most importantly, I never looked at my watch to wonder how much longer this piece would last…and I definitely have done that before!

Seventy five minutes is a long time, and with six movements, that averages about 13 minutes per piece.  That’s pretty substantial.  And I loved it. Each of the six poems is a very personal story.  Vlast is about patriotism and Smetana’s love for his country and homeland.  The music is beautiful, inspiring and heartwarming and imagery is abundant.

The musicians of the Utah Symphony played their hearts out, and it was a pleasure to see Keith Lockhart lead the symphony through this amazing work. I’ll soon not forget the performance, and I’ll sooner wish to hear it again.

On February 26th and 27th, Maestro Lockhart presents Stravinsky and Van Cliburn Silver Medalist Yeol Eum Son who will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. That’s something to look forward to!

Additionally, on Saturday, Utah Symphony Vivace ticket holders will have the opportunity to mingle with Utah Symphony musicians and the Van Cliburn Medalist at the Vivace After-party. To learn more about the Vivace program, visit the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera at or on Facebook.

Orchestras_Feeding_America March is Orchestras Feeding America month and the Utah Symphony along with more than 100 U.S.  Orchestras will be participating in and encouraging involvement in helping to feed America’s hungry with its second annual national food drive.

The Utah Symphony | Utah Opera will be collecting non-perishable canned goods on March 5th and 6th in the lobby of Abravanel Hall. All who donate will receive a coupon for 20% off a future Utah Symphony | Utah Opera selected concert.  Please consider stopping by Abravanel Hall on the 5th or 6th to bring canned goods to help the Utah Food Bank. [more information]

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has teamed up with the Greater Boston Food Bank and is also offering a virtual food drive.  In support of your local orchestras and community, please check to find out when they are conducting their own food drive.

Boston_Pops_Celebrates_125_YearsLearn more: Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops 125 Anniversary and the Utah Symphony.

Photos courtesy of Keith Lockhart, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Julie Albers.

2 Responses to Keith Lockhart Leads Utah Symphony with an Inspiring Walton and Smetana
  1. […] I stumbled across a page at the Utah Symphony website that indicates their new music directorKeith Lockhart Leads Utah Symphony with an Inspiring Walton …Keith Lockhart returned to Salt Lake City this month to conduct two weeks of performances with the […]

  2. […] performances by Mozart, Dvořák, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Elgar, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Smetana, just to name a few!  I also attended Verdi’s Requiem, which was a first for me, and three […]

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