UTAH SYMPHONY AND CHORUS, Abravanel Hall, Feb. 3; second performance 8 p.m. Feb. 4, tickets at 801-355-2787 or www.utahsymphony.org

This weekend’s Utah Symphony concert is called “Beethoven’s Fifth.” And while Beethoven’s symphony is on the program, the real star of the show is Michael Jarrell’s commissioned Emergences (Nachlese VI), which received its world premiere Friday. The work is a co-commission with three other orchestras with the Utah Symphony granted first performance honors.

It has been a long time since the orchestra has played a new work of this magnitude. Emergences (Nachlese VI) is intricately constructed from short fragments and motives that are intertwined between the orchestra and the solo cello. This well integrated construction is combined with brilliant orchestration to create a blazingly vibrant color palette. Nothing is superfluous, everything is organic and fabulously cohesive.

Jean-Guihen Queyras is the soloist. He did a spectacular job with his extremely virtuosic part. His playing was vibrant and made the music come alive. Thierry Fischer was on the podium and his perceptive direction allowed the orchestra to shine and bring out the multitude of nuances in this piece.

Unfortunately, the mood Jarrell created at the start of the work, where Queyras plays extremely softly, was marred by someone’s cellphone going off. It was annoyingly distracting to say the least. What does it take for people to get it into their heads to turn off their devices?

The key word describing Fischer’s account of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which was on the second half of the program, was loud. It wasn’t a very nuanced or articulated reading, and the tempos were a bit on the fast side. In the first movement, Fischer’s tempo felt, in fact, rushed at times and the string playing wasn’t always clean. It was dramatic, to be sure and no doubt that was Fischer’s intention. But really the only good thing about this movement was that it was over fairly quickly thanks to Fischer’s fast tempo.

There were three short lyrical pieces by Fauré to round out the program: the Cantique de Jean Racine and the Pavane with the Utah Symphony Chorus and the Élégie with Queyras.

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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at ed.reichel@gmail.com. Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.


  1. Excellent review of the concerto and the Beethoven, Mr. Reichel. We were unable to attend Friday’s performance but exchanged our tickets for Saturday. We were in the very last row on the main floor. The opening of the cello concerto was inaudible from our location (and I’m betting it was the same for much of the house). Any hint of sound was drowned out by the nervous shuffling and coughing of the audience around us until the orchestra entered some twenty measure in. We were spared the cell phone debacle, but you’d have thought the 1918 Flu Epidemic was in full swing that night with the “cough breaks” between each movement.
    My enjoyment of the cello concerto was centered more on an experiential level than yours. You mention the construction and orchestration of the work. I found enjoyment in letting the work sort of wash over me and let it carry me along. The structure of the work didn’t seem to present itself as forcefully as one finds in most Romantic works. I was especially taken with Queyras’ sure handling of the very difficult technical aspects including the left hand pizzicati and harmonics. He was able to coax very interesting sounds from that 300-plus-year-old cello.
    My opinion very closely matches your comments on the Beethoven. I could have wished for a somewhat slower tempo to allow the musical lines more breathing room.
    Looking forward to your next review!

  2. ;-) …It’s all true! Very enjoyable concert. Incredible performance by the cellist AND conductor, brought that work’s premier to life! Unfortunate that the audience frequently overpowered the music with noise. Just turn the cell phones (& beeping watches) OFF, please! Fastest Beethoven 5th first movement I’VE heard in a while…certainly no time to pause or ponder over the impact of those famous opening notes! My daughter and I were SO PLEASED people weren’t clasping between movements, then it began… Not that it’s a crime, but I, for one, enjoy the mood unbroken between movements.

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