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.