This season I was fortunate to be able to attend symphony performances in both Boston and Salt Lake City. I started the 09-10 season with the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s gala performance and was later thrilled to be a part of the Beethoven cycle of all nine symphonies (of which I attended eight). In my travels between Boston and Salt Lake, I also attended a number of performances with the Utah Symphony.
My first Utah Symphony performance was the O.C. Tanner Gift of Music’s presentation of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony (Resurrection) in October. It was a remarkable event for me as the concert was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Utah Symphony, and it was my first time seeing Keith Lockhart conduct a non-Boston Pops performance. It was a big night for me! While the Tabernacle was smaller than I had imagined, the orchestra and the 360-member choir made me feel like I was tiny.
Mahler’s 2nd Symphony is an incredible work and I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of this performance. I was also moved by Maestro Lockhart’s (not-so-obvious) display of emotion. When I later asked him what it is about a performance like this that affects him so, he said, “To me, the Mahler Symphonies are the ultimate in the art of orchestral writing. I think they say the most and they have the richest emotional life to them. They’re not compositions; they are incredible statements of the human condition in musical form. So to take that responsibility seriously means you have to go on a rather wrenching emotional journey to conduct the piece.”
Maestro Lockhart said that even the most successful conductors in the world won’t have many opportunities in their lifetime to conduct a Mahler Symphony, let alone all of them. He said there is a great deal of thought and feeling that goes into shaping something of that length and understanding where it’s going. He said it’s incredibly draining, but as he “got to the coda, and all the big triumphant things were happening”, he just wished he could go back to the top and do it again. He said, “I find that those symphonies are absolutely the hardest things that a conductor or orchestra ever has to do, but also the most rewarding.”
Throughout the season, I attended a number of memorable performances. In November I saw new Utah Symphony Pops Conductor Jerry Steichen lead a night of Bravo Broadway, which was filled with energy, good spirits, and fantastic voices, and in January I saw Thierry Fischer lead the orchestra with Brahms and Shostakovich for his first performance as the Utah Symphony’s new Music Director.
A number of guest conductors and guest artists presented some wonderful 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 performances conducted by Associate Conductor David Cho; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and the Lollipops Series concert, Mini Magic Flute, based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
It’s hard to name a favorite because each concert had so much to offer, but I really loved Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Smetana’s Má Vlast, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. I had the most fun at Mini Magic Flute, even though it was for children and was just an hour long. It was such a joy to see Abravanel Hall filled with children who came to see the symphony, attend the instrument petting zoo in the Hall’s lobby, and leave having just begun a lifelong love for the Arts.
As I look ahead to the 2010-2011 Season with the Utah Symphony, I am excited to see such a rich and varied program for all ages. Music Director Thierry Fischer will conduct five performances this season, and Conductor Emeritus Keith Lockhart will return for three, and we’ll see performances from guest artists including Pianist Horacio Gutiérrez and Violinist Hilary Hahn.
Works to be performed this season include Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Debussy’s La Mer, Mozart’s 40th Symphony, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Firebird and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra.
There will also be Pops performances that include music from the Wizard of Oz, Wicked and ABBA. Children’s performances include a Halloween concert, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf (with dancers from Ballet West II), and the story of The Polar Express during the “Here Comes Santa Claus” concerts in December, 2010.
The Utah Symphony | Utah Opera presents wonderful programs to the Salt Lake and surrounding communities throughout the year and it’s a great gift to be able to attend. They offer everything from traditional classical music to collaborations with rock, jazz and country artists to programming specifically tailored to children. And the concerts are all affordably priced!
I don’t know how many of these performances I’ll be able to attend next season, but I’m looking forward to quite a few! Thanks for a great season!
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