FUMIAKI MIURA PLAYS WITH POLISH AND FINESSE AT UTAH SYMPHONY CONCERT

UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, Nov. 21; additional performance 8 p.m. Nov. 22, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org

The young Japanese violinist Fumiaki Miura made a big impression when he debuted with the Utah Symphony two years ago in Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. And Friday, on his return visit to Abravanel Hall, he once again sounded marvelous, this time in Camille Saint-Saëns’ Third Concerto in B minor.

Miura showed he has the technical and musical chops to be a respected violinist at his inaugural Utah Symphony appearance. And if anything his performance on Friday showed more finesse and polish.

He also has a strong stage presence and personality that goes beyond his 21 years. He is quite a mature performer who will no doubt make a big name for himself in the years to come.

Saint-Saëns’ Third Violin Concerto is an expressive piece that requires of the soloist finely phrased and executed playing with a keen sense of lyricism — all of which Miura possesses. His playing captured the subtleties while delivering a well crafted account.

Thierry Fischer and the orchestra offered a well balanced counterpart to the soloist. It was a wonderfully interwoven collaboration that complemented Miura’s playing.

Also on the program this weekend are two works by Antonìn Dvorák — the incidental overture Mein Heim (My Home) and the Symphony No. 7 in D minor.

Both were played with passion and expression, and in the symphony in particular Fischer crafted a bold and robust reading that nevertheless emphasized the nuances of the score.

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CANYONLANDS TO PERFORM WORKS BY YU-HUI CHANG

Yu-Hui Chang

Yu-Hui Chang, a noted composer from Taiwan who now teaches at Brandeis University, will visit Salt Lake City next week as part of the University of Utah’s Maurice Abravanel Distinguished Composers Series.

While here Chang will give a lecture and a talk and have several of her works performed by the Canyonlands Ensemble.

Chang was born in 1970 in Taiwan and moved to the United States in 1994 to continue her music studies. She did graduate work at Boston University and Brandeis University in Massachusetts. She is currently the co-artistic director of Boston’s Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble.

As a composer, Chang has received numerous commissions and her works have been performed in several European countries, including the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Denmark, as well as in Asia, New Zealand and the United States.

Below is a schedule of events, all of which take place on Nov. 24 and are free and open to the public.

  • 10:45 a.m. – Lecture: Yu-Hui Chang’s Compositional Methods (David Gardner Hall 416).
  • 12 p.m. – Talk: “No, I Do Not Blend East and West” (Dumke Recital Hall, David Gardner Hall).
  • 7:30 p.m. – Concert: Canyonlands Ensemble. Music by Chang, Kurtág, Kagel, Berio and Xenakis (Dumke Recital Hall, David Gardner Hall).
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FUMIAKI MIURA TO PLAY WITH UTAH SYMPHONY THIS WEEKEND

Fumiaki Miura (Photo: Dan Hannen)

The young Japanese violinist Fumiaki Miura, who made his United States debut with the Utah Symphony in 2012, returns to Utah this weekend, playing Camille Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No. 3 in B minor, a work dedicated to and premiered by Pablo de Sarasate.

Under the direction of Thierry Fischer the orchestra will also play two works by Antonín Dvorák: the incidental overture My Home and the Symphony No. 7 in D minor.

There will be a performance today at 7:30 p.m. in de Jong Concert Hall in the Harris Fine Arts Building at Brigham Young University. Tickets are $20 for reserved seating, $17 for seniors and BYU alumni and $13 for students with I.D. For reservations call 801-422-4322 or log on to www.byuarts.com.

Friday and Saturday Miura and the orchestra will play in Abravanel Hall. The concerts begin at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $15-$69 and can be purchased by calling 801-355-2787 or 888-451-2787 or by logging on to www.utahsymphony.org. Tickets are $5 higher when purchased on the day of the performance.

Below is an interview that Reichel Recommends conducted with Miura via email.

RR: You made an impressive debut with the Utah Symphony two years ago. How was the experience for you?

FM: Absolutely amazing. I loved the orchestra and Abravanel Hall.

RR: For your upcoming appearance with the Utah Symphony you’ll be playing Saint-Saëns’ Third Concerto. What appeals to you in this work? Is it challenging for the violinist?

FM: It is a challenging piece for the violinist, but for me one of the best pieces by Saint-Saëns. It is simply beautiful.

RR: The last time you were here you played Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. How would you compare that work to the Saint-Saëns concerto?

FM: Totally different. I would say Bruch is basically more romantic. But Saint-Saëns makes more dramatic contrast.  I love both of them.

RR: Since you made your debut with the Utah Symphony in 2012 — which was also your United States debut — have you played with other American orchestras?

FM: Yes, after my debut with Utah Symphony, I played with San Diego Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic and Eugene Symphony.

RR: What other orchestras have you played with in the past two years outside of the U.S.?

FM: I played with some Japanese orchestras and also in Europe, with Stuttgart Radio Symphony, NDR Hamburg Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic, Lausanne Chamber, etc.

RR: Have you appeared at any music festivals?

FM: Yes, last year, I played a recital at Ravinia Festival in Chicago.

RR: Before debuting with the Utah Symphony two years ago did you know Thierry Fischer in Japan?

FM: Not in person, but of course I knew him because he was a music director of Nagoya Philharmonic .

RR: You won first prize at the Hannover competition in 2009. Have you entered any other competitions since then?

FM: No I have not.  Basically, I don’t like competitions. But the Hannover was definitely my start of playing concerts.

RR: Your parents are violinists. Did they want you to become a violinist, too?

FM: I don’t think so. My parents never forced me to. I’m so lucky !

RR: Who are some of the violinists that you admire?

FM:  I love old violinists: Milstein, Heifetz, Szeryng, etc. And now in our time, Pinchas Zukerman and Julian Rachlin.

RR: You’ve had quite a lot of success so far in your career, and you’re still very young. What are some of the things you want to accomplish as an artist?

FM: I will continue to work on marvelous concertos, but also more chamber music. I’m lucky enough to have so many wonderful musical friends, so one day I want to make a music festival.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK IN DANCE (NOV. 19-25, 2014)

(Be sure to visit our monthly dance calendar by clicking on “Events Calendar.”)

WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY, Orchesis Dance Theatre Fundraiser, November 20, 5:30 p.m., Allred Theater, Browning Center for the Performing Arts, $25, 800-978-8457, www.weberstatetickets.com.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Utah Ballet, November 20-22, 2 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. performances, Hayes Christensen Theatre, Marriott Center for Dance, $12 general, $8 students, U. students free with ID, 801-581-7100, www.kingtix.com.

UTAH VALLEY UNIVERSITY, “Pointe to Pointe,” Repertory Ballet Ensemble, Nichole Ortega and Mark Borchelt, artistic directors, November 20-22, 7:30 p.m., Ragan Theatre, $12 general, $8 students, 801-863-7529, or box office located in Noorda Theatre, or Campus Connection, www.uvu.edu/arts.

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, Senior Dance Showcase, a concert of diverse dance works highlighting the artistry and stylistic voices of the graduating seniors, November 21-22, 7:30 p.m., Dance Studio Theatre, Richards Building, $6 general, 801-422-4322, www.byuarts.com.

WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY, Orchesis Dance Theatre, November 21-22, 7:30 p.m., Allred Theater, Browning Center for the Performing Arts, $10-$12, 800-978-8457, www.weberstatetickets.com.

REPERTORY DANCE THEATRE, “The Mitch Show,” is a fast-paced evening of comic films and audience-participation pieces by Mitchell Rose, a former choreographer and performance artist, now prize-winning filmmaker, Mitch’s offbeat films have won 61 festival awards and are screened across the globe, from the Getty Museum to the CBS JumboVision in Times Square, maniacally funny, often poignant and always surprising, The Mitch Show appeals equally to fans of film, theater, dance, and comedy. November 21-22, 11 a.m., Jeanné Wagner Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, $10 general, 801-355-2787, www.arttix.org, or www.rdtutah.org.

REPERTORY DANCE THEATRE, “Surprise Packages,” RDT’s famed children’s show by Tim Hadel will delight audiences of all ages, enjoy rhythms, games, puzzles and hijinks as dancers build mazes and towers with cardboard boxes, show their ballroom dance skills and puzzle over a Rubik’s cube, November 22, 11 a.m., Jeanné Wagner Theatre, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, $10 general, $40 family pass (5 tickets), 801-355-2787, www.arttix.org, or www.rdtutah.org.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK IN THEATRE (NOV. 19-25, 2014)

(Be sure to visit our monthly theatre calendar by clicking on “Events Calendar.”)

SILVER SUMMIT THEATRE, Company, a musical comedy, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by George Furst, on his 35th birthday Bobby, a commitment phobic bachelor, searches for the answers to love and life in New York City, while enjoying the company of some lovely ladies he observes both the joys and pitfalls of marriage from his five quirky couple friends, through November 23, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. performances, Sugar Space Arts Wharehouse, 130 S. 800 West, $15 general in advance, $18 general at the door, www.silversummittheatre.org.

HALE CENTRE THEATRE-WEST VALLEY CITY, Catch Me If You Can, by McNally, Shaiman and Wittman, this musical sings the true story of Frank Abagnale, Jr., who might be a pilot, a doctor or a lawyer, through November 29, 7:30 p.m., also 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. matinees on Saturdays, $30-$33 general, $16 children ages 5-11 years, 801-984-9000, www.halecentretheatre.org

UTAH CHILDREN’S THEATRE, Rapunzel, the adventure of Rapunzel comes to life before your eyes, a beautiful princess is taken from her family as a baby and raised by the witch Mother Gothel; fearing that people will find the princess, Gothel locks her away in a tower, but can she keep her there forever?, through December 5-6, 1 p.m., 4:30p.m. and 7 p.m. performances, 3605 S. State St., $14 general, 801-532-6000, www.uctheatre.org.

DESERT STAR PLAYHOUSE, How the Grouch Stole Christmas, through January 3, 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m., also 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. matinees, $18.95 adults, $10.95 children (11 years and under), 4861 S. State, 801-266-2600, www.desertstar.biz.

WESTMINSTER COLLEGE, The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, directed by Melanie Nelson, Shakespeare’s valedictory play is also one of his most poetic and magical, teeming with fairies, monsters and shipwrecks, November 20-22, Jay W. Lees Courage Theatre, Jewett Center for the Performing Arts, $10 general, 801-832-2457, www.westminstercollege.edu/culturalevents.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, The Threepenny Opera, book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, music by Kurt Weill, directed by Denny Berry, this brilliant musical is a political and social satire about the corruption of humanity and a sharp critique of Capitalism, yet humorous and with a happy ending, November 20-23, 7:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on November 22-23, Babcock Theatre, $18 general, $15 seniors/U. faculty/staff/military and immediate families, $8.50 non U. students, free for U. students, 801-581-7100, www.kingtix.com.

BROADWAY ACROSS AMERICA, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical, book and lyrics by Timothy Mason, music by Mel Marvin, the Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart warming holiday classic, November 20, 7:30 p.m., November 21, 8 p.m., November 22, 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m., November 23, 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m., Capitol Theatre, $32.50-$85, 801-355-5502, 800-259-5840, www.broadwayinutah.com.

CENTERPOINT LEGACY THEATRE, Scrooge, book, lyrics and music by Leslie Bricusse, directed by Addie Holman, a delightful musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, November 20-December 18, 7:30 p.m., Barlow Main Stage, 525 N. 400 West, Centerville, $17-$22, 801-298-1302, www.centerpointtheatre.org. 

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder, directed by Stephanie Breinholt, about the lives of the residents of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, it won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, November 21-22, December 2-6, 9-11, 7:30 p.m., also 2 p.m. matinees on November 22 and December 6, ASL interpreted performance on December 4, Pardoe Theatre, Harris Fine Arts Center, $15 ($4-$5 off with BYU or student ID, $2 off seniors and BYU alumni), 801-422-4322, www.arts.byu.edu.

EGYPTIAN THEATER PARK CITY, SHREK: The Musical, presented by Ziegfeld Theatre Company, based on Dreamworks’ film, it’s the hilarious story of everyone’s favorite green ogre, his one true love, and a wise cracking donkey, November 21-23, 28-30, 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. performances, Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main, Park City, $35 reserved seating (in advance), $40 at the door, $43  front (in advance), $48 at the door, $55 cabaret (in advance), $60 at the door, $29 youth, ages 12 and under (in advance), $34 at the door, $35 youth front (in advance), $40 at the door 435-649-9371, www.egyptiantheatrecompany.org.

THE OFF BROADWAY THEATRE, The X-mas Men, the evil Jack Frost plans to take over Santa’s magic snowball, to give coal to good children and presents to bad ones, luckily the X-mas Men are here to save the day, November 21-December 27, 7:30 p.m., 272 S. Main, $10-$16, 801-355-4628, www.theobt.org.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK IN MUSIC (NOV. 19-25, 2014)

(Be sure to visit our monthly concert calendar by clicking on “Events Calendar.”)

UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY, Jazz Ensembles, N0vember 19, 7:30 p.m., The Performance Hall, Chase Fine Arts Center, $8-$10 general, USU students free with ID, 435-797-8022, www.arts.usu.edu.

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, BYU Philharmonic, Kory Katseanes, conductor, Will Kimball, trombone, music includes Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Neil Thornock’s am strigat…am legat (premiere), November 19, 7:30 p.m., de Jong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, $10-15 general ($4-$5 off with BYU or student ID, $1 off seniors and BYU alumni), 801-422-4322, www.byuarts.com.

UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY, Symphony Orchestra, N0vember 19, 7:30 p.m., Kent Concert Hall, Chase Fine Arts Center, $8-$10 general, USU students free with ID, 435-797-8022, www.arts.usu.edu.

EXCELLENCE IN THE COMMUNITY CONCERT SERIES, “A Night At The Opera,” a collaboration with Utah Symphony and Opera, November 20, 7:30 p.m., Gallivan Center, free.

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, BRAVO! Series, Utah Symphony, Thierry Fischer, conductor, Fumiaka Miura, violin, includes music by Dvorák and Camille Saint-Saëns, November 20, 7:30 p.m., de Jong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, $20 general ($7 off with BYU or student ID, $3 off seniors and BYU alumni), 801-422-4322, www.byuarts.com.

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, Group for Experimental Music, November 20, 7:30 p.m., Madsen Recital Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, free.

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, Woodwind Chamber Night, November 20, 7:30 p.m., University Parkway Center (northeast corner of University Avenue and University Parkway), room 313, free.

UTAH SYMPHONY, Masterworks Series, “Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7,” Thierry Fischer, conductor, Fumiaki Miura, violin, program also includes music by Saint-Saëns, and Dvorák’s My Home, November 21-22, 8 p.m., Abravanel Hall, $15-$69 (tickets are $5 more on the day of the performance), see website or contact box office for information regarding student tickets, 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787, www.arttix.org, for further ticket information please call 801-533-6683, www.utahsymphony.org.

TEMPLE SQUARE EVENTS, “Bells on Temple Square,” annual holiday concert directed by LeAnna Willmore, November 21-22, 7:30 p.m., Tabernacle, tickets required; for free tickets call 801-570-0080 or visit www.lds.org/events.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Lyric Opera Ensemble, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” November 21-22, 7:30 p.m., Libby Gardner Concert Hall, David Gardner Hall, $10 general, $6 seniors/non-U. students/U. faculty and staff, free for U. students with valid I.D., 801-581-7100, www.kingtix.com.

BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, Synthesis, with Essential Ellington Jazz Festival, Ray Smith, director, November 21-22, 7:30 p.m., de Jong Concert Hall, Harris Fine Arts Center, $10 general ($4 off with BYU or student ID, $1 off seniors and BYU alumni), 801-422-4322, www.byuarts.com.

ST. JOHN’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, Benjamin Britten’s Saint Nicholas, a cantata depicting the life of the patron saint of children, Saint Nicolas, a fourth century Bishop of Myra, featuring tenor Robert Breault, the American Festival Singers and Chamber Orchestra, the Fry Street Quartet, the Caine College of the Arts Choral Scholars and the Utah State University Women’s Chorus, November 23, 6 p.m., 85 E. 100 North, Logan, free.

UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY, Symphonic Band, N0vember 24, 7:30 p.m., Kent Concert Hall, Chase Fine Arts Center, free.

UTAH VALLEY UNIVERSITY, “Ice Breaker,” Jazz Festival Gala Concert, Jazz Ensembles, David Fullmer, director, November 24, 7:30 p.m., Ragan Theatre, $10 general, $5 students, 801-863-7529, or box office located in Noorda Theatre, or Campus Connection, www.uvu.edu/arts.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Jazz Repertory Ensemble, November 24, 7:30 p.m., Libby Gardner Concert Hall, David Gardner Hall, $7 general $3 seniors, staff, faculty, and non U. students, free for U. students, 801-581-7100, www.kingtix.com.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Maurice Abravanel Visiting Distinguished Composer Series, featuring the music of Yu-Hui Chang performed by Canyonlands, November 24, 7:30 p.m., Dumke Recital Hall in David Gardner Hall, free.

WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY, Guitar Ensemble, November 24, 7:30 p.m., Eccles Theatre, Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts, $6-$7, 800-978-8457, www.weberstatetickets.com.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Classical Guitar Ensembles, November 25, 7 p.m., Dumke Recital Hall in David Gardner Hall, free.

UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY, String Ensembles, N0vember 25, 7:30 p.m., The Performance Hall, Chase Fine Arts Center, $8-$10 general, USU students free with ID, 435-797-8022, www.arts.usu.edu.

WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY, Browning String Quartet, November 25, 7:30 p.m., Allred Theatre, Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts, $6-$7, 800-978-8457, www.weberstatetickets.com.

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SOLID TECHNIQUE BUT NO MAGIC AT PIETER WISPELWEY’S RECITAL

PIETER WISPELWEY, CELLO, PEI-SHAN LEE, PIANO, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Nov. 18

In a break from its usual string quartet offerings, the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City brought in cellist Pieter Wispelwey for its second concert of the new season Tuesday.

Accompanied by pianist Pei-Shan Lee, the Dutch cellist played a program that included two works with piano that he arranged for his instrument: Brahms’ Sonata in E flat major, op. 120 (originally for clarinet) and Schubert’s Fantasy in C major, op. 159 (originally for violin).

Also on the program were the Poulenc and Debussy cello sonatas.

Both players are technically sound, but at Tuesday’s concert they lacked musicality and commitment. In fact, it was a performance that was devoid of passion. Their approach to the program was very clinical. They have the technical chops to play these works, but they weren’t investing themselves emotionally in the music. And it didn’t help that there was no chemistry between them.

A collaboration isn’t just two people who happen to find themselves onstage together at the same time and decide to toss off a couple of pieces. Ideally, it’s a meeting of the minds; two musicians who decide to work together because of their similar approach to music and their innate desire to convey what is on the page to the audience and engage that audience in an intimate conversation. Granted, this is a seldom occurrence, but when it does happen, the result is pure magic. One needs only to think about pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel, who have appeared in Utah several times, to know what this is all about. Of course being married to each other doesn’t hurt, but beyond that they have the ability to grab the audience and mesmerize everyone in the hall with their consummate artistry and take them on a fabulous musical journey.

Unfortunately, the magic wasn’t in Libby Gardner Concert Hall Tuesday evening. There were moments when Wispelwey and Lee were actually making glorious music together. There were sections in the Schubert Fantasy, for example, that were beautifully crafted and executed. But the overall performance was marred by Wispelwey’s occasional clumsy playing of scales and trills and sloppy harmonics.

The most successful part of the recital were the two encores: a movement from one of Bach’s suites for solo cello and a transcription of Fauré’s evocative song Après un rêve. In these Wispelwey was relaxed and confident; he had something to say and he communicated that well with his audience.

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THE U.’S LYRIC OPERA ENSEMBLE TO PERFORM ANNUAL OPERA SCENES THIS WEEKEND

Robert Breault always comes up with interesting ideas for the University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble’s annual opera scenes concerts.

This year the concert is called “Scene da un Ristorante Italiano,” a take off on the 1977 Billy Joel song “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.” In a phone interview with Reichel Recommends Breault promised that it’ll be a veritable buffet featuring a rich variety of selections. “It’s a smorgasbord.”

University of Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble

Each year Breault, who directs the opera program at the U., tries to load the program with as many different arias and ensembles as possible. “I’m always trying to see how many things I can make work.” This year, there will be a cornucopia of composers, from Mozart and Johann Strauss to Verdi, Beethoven and many others. And as far as music goes, there will be everything from operetta, musicals and Disney movies. Hence the buffet/smorgasbord reference. “A lot of the times the students will have certain things they want to do,” Breault said. “And some are so advanced I have them go out and look at things to sing.”

There are several food related pieces on the program, including “Take a Little Noodle” (with its double entendres) from Strauss’ A Night in Venice, the “Ice Cream Sextet” from Weill’s Street Scene and “Gluttony” from Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins. Also on the program is the “Lullaby” from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, which doesn’t have anything to do with food. But according to Breault, “it gives you some bitter greens in your salad.”

To complete the culinary motif, there will be a stage onstage at Libby Gardner Concert Hall, and the setting will evoke a restaurant. “It’s going to be like the singing waiters at Macaroni Grill,” Breault said. All of the singers will be onstage the entire time, and when it’s their turn to perform they’ll just get up and sing. “This kind of setting can be a lot of fun, and keeping everyone onstage the whole time will be an integral part of the story.”

Most of the musical numbers will be double cast with most of the students in the opera workshop program taking part. “The cast has every junior and senor in the program,” Breault said. “There are also a few younger singers and a few graduate students in the cast.”

Breault is thrilled with how the program has turned out. “The music is fantastic. You might hear something new or you might feel nostalgic, which is great. The program is designed to be really pleasurable.”

Pianist Jeffrey Price will accompany.

  • CONCERT DETAILS
  • What: Lyric Opera Ensemble, “Scene da un Ristorante Italiano” (“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”)
  • Venue: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21-22
  • Tickets: $10 general, $6 seniors/non-U. students/U. faculty and staff, free for U. students with valid I.D.
  • Phone: 801-581-7100
  • Web: www.kingtix.com
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MAGNIFICENT PERFORMANCE OF MAHLER’S ‘RESURRECTION’ SYMPHONY FRIDAY

UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, Nov. 14; second performance 8 p.m. Nov. 15, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org 

It isn’t really all that odd that during Gustav Mahler’s life only a few of his symphonies were played and none were understood. Mahler created his own world in these large scale works, and he unequivocally broke the mold of what a symphony is supposed to be. It’s true that Ludwig van Beethoven introduced solo singers and a chorus into his Ninth Symphony and that Anton Bruckner wrote gigantic symphonic works in the 1880s and ‘90s. But with Mahler the musical language is broader and much more expansive; the symphonic structure is greatly expanded; and there is a multitude of different musical ideas at play in each work — everything from sentimental Viennese Ländler to military bands to lofty expressions of philosophical concepts. For the audience of the day there was nothing to grasp on to.

With today’s ears, attuned as they are to a host of musical experiences, Mahler’s music isn’t so foreign or incomprehensible. It can be better appreciated for what it is — a vast new landscape of musical sounds and ideas that is at once personal and universal.

Thierry Fischer (Photo Credit: Lephoto)

Mahler and the Utah Symphony are closely connected thanks to Maurice Abravanel, the orchestra’s music director from 1947-1979, whose recordings of the Austrian composer’s nine symphonies in the 1960s and ‘70s marked the first time that these works were recorded by the same orchestra and conductor.

To help celebrate the Utah Symphony’s 75th anniversary and keep Abravanel’s legacy alive, music director Thierry Fischer has undertaken a two-season-long project to perform the complete Mahler cycle. The First was played (and recorded) in September. The Second (Resurrection) is on this weekend’s program.

Friday’s performance featured some of the best playing to date by the Utah Symphony under Fischer’s direction. Fischer has high expectations of his players and they delivered. It was a commanding performance by each section. The brass, which always plays a prominent part in Mahler’s symphonies, was exceptional. Everything, from the fortissimo tutti passages to the soft lyrical interludes, was played with nuance and polish. And all of the many solo moments were exceptional as well. Concertmaster Ralph Matson, English hornist Lissa Stolz and principal flutist Mercedes Smith, among others, played with finely crafted expressions and phrasings.

Fischer went for a broadly expansive account. His tempos throughout tended to be on the slower side, but they were well conceived and he always took meticulous care not to let anything get bogged down. It was a magnificently executed reading that explored the myriad nuances and subtleties in the score.

The two soloists, soprano Celena Shafer and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano, sang with well defined execution and beautifully expressed phrasings. The large choral contingent, which included the Utah Symphony Chorus, the Utah Chamber Artists, the University of Utah A Cappella Choir and the University of Utah Chamber Choir, under the direction of symphony chorus director Barlow Bradford, sang with a gorgeously rounded sound and brought wonderful depth to their part.

Also on the program this weekend is Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 5 in A major. The playing, especially by the strings, which carry the weight of the work, was crisply defined and radiant.

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PLENTY OF CONCERTS ON TAP THIS WEEKEND (NOV. 13-16, 2014)

November is usually a busy month for concerts, and this weekend bears that out. It’s a weekend where you can pick and choose what you want to attend.

Ryan van Liere

Among the concerts are the Utah Symphony’s performances of Mahler’s Second Symphony with Thierry Fischer; the John Williams’ bassoon concerto, The Five Sacred Trees, with soloist Ryan van Liere and the Salt Lake Symphony under Robert Baldwin; the next installment of NOVA’s Gallery Series with music by Beethoven and Wolfgang Rihm, featuring Utah Symphony colleagues Jason Hardink, piano, and Kathryn Eberle, violin; and pianist Vedrana Subotic’s ongoing series of Beethoven’s works for piano.

And since this is only a partial listing, be sure to log on to http://www.reichelrecommends.com/performances-music-november-2014/ to get a complete rundown of events for November.

  • SALTY CRICKET COMPOSERS COLLECTIVE, “Belt Canto,” is a collage of opera and musical theatre scenes of shows by Utah composers, pieces include I Saw You, by Rick Mortensen, The Mob Song, words by Annelise Parkes Murphy and music by Jeff Parkes, Whimsicon: A Song Cycle on the Poems of Ogden Nash, by Marden Pond, The Sand and Sea, words and music by M. Ryan Taylor, Exiles by James Joyce, music by Nathaniel Eshler, The Scarlet Letter, words and music by Melissa Cecala, November 13, 7:30 p.m., Ladies Literary Guild, 850 E. South Temple, $10 general, $5 students, if purchased in advance ($5 more on day of performance), www.saltycricket.org.
  • UTAH CLASSICAL GUITAR SOCIETY, Anton Baranov, November 14, 8 p.m., Vieve Gore Concert Hall, Westminster College, $20 general, $10 students, for more information and advance tickets please visit www.ucgs.org.
  • UTAH SYMPHONY, Masterworks Series, “Mahler’s Symphony No. 2,” Thierry Fischer, conductor, Celena Shafer, soprano, Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano, and Utah Symphony Chorus, program also includes music by Haydn, November 14-15, 8 p.m., Abravanel Hall, $10-$69 (tickets are $5 more on the day of the performance), see website or contact box office for information regarding student tickets, 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787, www.arttix.org, for further ticket information please call 801-533-6683, www.utahsymphony.org.

    Vedrana Subotic

  • GIFTED MUSIC SCHOOL, Fall Concert, Jenny Oaks Baker, violin, Vladimir Kulenovich, conductor, Gifted Music School Orchestra, program features Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, November 15, 5 p.m., All Saints Episcopal Church, 1710 Foothill Dr., free.
  • SALT LAKE SYMPHONY, “Cultural Roots,” Robert Baldwin, music director and conductor, Ryan van Liere, bassoon, includes music by Beethoven, John Williams and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 in G major November 15, 7:30 p.m., Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, $10 general, $5 students and seniors, 801-531-7501 or at the door with cash, check or credit card, www.saltlakesymphony.org.
  • METROPOLITAN OPERA NATIONAL COUNCIL, Utah District Auditions, November 15, 11 a.m.- 1 p.m., and 2 p.m.-to 5:00 p.m., 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (while judges deliberate), a reception with competitors and an opportunity to vote for your favorite singer, the winner to receive an audience choice award, 5:30 p.m., announcement of the winners, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, free and open to the public, www.utahmoncauditions.org.
  • TEMPLE SQUARE EVENTS, Utah Premiere Brass, Kirt Saville, director, British style brass band will perform jazz, sacred and upbeat selections, November 15, 7:30 p.m., Assembly Hall, tickets are not required for this event, seating will be general admission.
  • NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Gallery Series, Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major op. 30, No. 1,  Rihm’s Klavierstück, No. 2, op. 8b, Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in G major, op. 30, No. 3, Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in C minor, op. 30, No. 2, performed by Utah Symphony associate concertmaster Kathryn Eberle, and NOVA artistic director Jason Hardink, November 16, 3 p.m., The Art Barn at Finch Lane, 54 Finch Lane, $25, tickets online or cash or checks at the door, www.novachambermusicseries.org.
  • UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, Sundays@7 Faculty Spotlight, “Beethoven Sonata Perspectives,” Vedrana Subotic, piano, November 16, 7 p.m., Libby Gardner Concert Hall in David Gardner Hall, free.
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THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH’S PRODUCTION OF ‘THE THREEPENNY OPERA’ MAKES POWERFUL STATEMENT

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH, The Threepenny Opera, Babcock Theatre, Nov. 9; through Nov. 23, tickets at 801-581-7100 or www.kingtix.com

When Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill wrote The Threepenny Opera they probably didn’t expect it to have the lasting success that it’s enjoyed over the past nine decades. But as a biting satire of corruption and capitalism, the story is timeless. It no doubt resonated with audiences in Germany’s fractured and morally and financially bankrupt Weimar Republic of the 1920s, and it certainly hits a nerve with audiences in post-Great Recession America.

The Brecht/Weill show, in Marc Blitzstein’s wonderful English translation from the 1950s, is currently on stage at the Babcock Theatre, presented by the University of Utah’s musical theatre department. Directed by Denny Berry, with simple yet effective sets and striking projected images by Dan Evans, the work makes a powerful statement and drives home Brecht’s indictment of the inequality of a society’s class structure.

Mark Fossen as Macheath and Connor Norton as Polly Peachum. (Photo: Courtesy University of Utah)

The production is exceptionally well cast, and at Sunday’s performance everyone, from the leads to the ensemble, gave a compelling and sincere account of their respective roles. This is the type of cast that Brecht no doubt would have admired: they are all strong and appealing performers who can handle the musical numbers without turning the work into an operatic production. They are singing actors of considerable talent.

For the hefty role of Macheath, the head of a band of thieves, it was Berry’s decision to bring in the professional actor Mark Fossen. He gave a compelling account and invested himself fully in the role. He has a formidable stage presence and with his   forceful characterization one can immediately understand why he is able to command respect from his motley band and mesmerize women.

As Polly Peachum, Macheath’s main love interest, Connor Norton was absolutely stunning. She, too, gave a solid performance that captured her character perfectly, and the chemistry between her and Fossen was palpable. Her singing and acting were spot on and she is definitely a young talent on her way up.

McKenna Kay Jensen as Mrs. Peachum, Connor Norton as Polly and Michael S. Johnson as Mr. Peachum (Photo: Courtesy University of Utah)

The same can also be said of Michael S. Johnson as Mr. Peachum and McKenna Kay Jensen as his wife. They were captivating in their roles and brought depth and well crafted definition to their performances.

In smaller roles, particular mention must be made of Alexandra Camastro as Jenny; Brian Manternach as Tiger Brown, the police commissioner; Austin John Smith as the Street Singer; and Lauren Rathbun as Lucy, Tiger Brown’s daughter. They were all invested in their characters and gave convincing portrayals.

The ensemble was also spot on with its singing and acting, and the band, under the capable direction of keyboardist Alex Marshall, played well and offered good support. Berry’s vision and conceptualization of the show are dynamic and also crucial to the success of this production, and her direction was impeccable and moved the action along at a good pace.

This is without question a must-see production. Seize the opportunity. Who knows when The Threepenny Opera will be seen again in Salt Lake City.

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GUEST CONDUCTOR ILAN VOLKOV AND THE UTAH SYMPHONY GIVE STUNNING ACCOUNT OF BARTÓK’S CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA

UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, Nov. 7; second performance 8 p.m. Nov. 8, tickets at 801-355-2787, 888-451-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org 

The two guests at this weekend’s Utah Symphony concerts — pianist Marc-André Hamelin and conductor Ilan Volkov — have a history of collaboration in the concert hall and the recording studio. The two, in fact, have recorded Richard Strauss’ Burleske, one of the works on this weekend’s program. And since they’ve done it together, one would expect a stellar performance from them.

Ilan Volkov (Photo: Courtesy of Tectonics Festival, Glasgow)

At Friday’s concert the Strauss was, indeed, no less than spectacular. A demanding work, Hamelin gave a dynamic account that lacked nothing for sheer power and vitality. And he also brought well defined lyricism to the quieter sections in this one-movement work.

Volkov offered wonderful support in a collaboration that was between equals. He also coaxed articulate and well crafted playing from the ensemble. And George Brown’s timpani playing, often showcased in duet with the soloist, was superb.

As a prelude to the Strauss Hamelin played Mozart’s Rondo in A major, K. 386, a sunny piece in which Volkov elicited crisp playing from the reduced orchestra. Hamelin’s playing, while good, was not up to the orchestra’s. It was at times a bit careless and frequently sounded mechanical.

Bookending Hamelin’s appearance at the concert are two works by Béla Bartók: the Hungarian Sketches and the Concerto for Orchestra.

The Israeli-born conductor once again elicited clean and precise playing from the orchestra in the Hungarian Sketches. All sections played well and there were numerous outstanding solo moments as well. Particular mention must be made of the solo playing by Tad Calcara, clarinet; Mercedes Smith, flute; James Hall, oboe; and Caitlyn Valovick Moore, piccolo.

The Concerto for Orchestra, one of Bartók’s last works, is also one of his most popular and endearing creations. It’s a fabulous vehicle for the orchestra, and it’s challenging to say the least. It tests the mettle of any ensemble and the players of the Utah Symphony gave a stunning display of their remarkable artistry with their decisive playing that was lyrical, bold, energetic and powerful.

Volkov was commanding in his direction. He knew exactly what he wanted from his band and he got it. It was an incisive reading that delved into the nuances of the score. And all of the sections played magnificently — from the percussion to the strings.

These concerts mark Volkov’s debut with the Utah Symphony. He was impressive on the podium with his impeccable musicality and polished artistry, and hopefully he will make a return appearance to Salt Lake City soon.

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