SALT LAKE SYMPHONY, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Nov. 10

Aaron Copland received many commissions from prominent musicians throughout his long life. One of them who asked Copland to write him a work was jazz legend Benny Goodman. In 1947 he commissioned Copland to compose a clarinet concerto for which he agreed to pay $2000, a fee he considered to be quite generous. (Goodman had a reputation for being tight with money.)

Copland obliged and wrote a gorgeous two-movement work that allowed Goodman to display his lyrical side as well as his technical dexterity. The work isn’t performed all too frequently, but it was on the Salt Lake Symphony’s program last Saturday.

Soloist was Robert Walzel, the former head of the University of Utah’s school of music and a remarkable clarinet virtuoso. He joined the symphony and music director Robert Baldwin in a magnificent account of the concerto. In the slow opening movement Walzel brought out the lyricism with his beautifully crafted phrases and expressive lines, while in the following fast movement he handled the wittily rhythmic and bravura passages with ease.

Baldwin and the orchestra offered solid accompaniment that complemented Walzel’s playing but always allowed him to shine.

Unlike Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s symphonies are warhorses, and the orchestra played the Fifth after intermission. It was a well crafted and articulate account and the many solos throughout were the highlights of the performance. Baldwin strove for a nuanced reading and his musicians gave him what he wanted.

The evening opened with Beethoven’s overture to Egmont, in a special performance that featured quite a few gifted high school musicians sitting next to their symphony counterparts. The young players held their own and Baldwin elicited and got a dramatic and powerful account of one of the composer’s most compelling pieces.

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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 Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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