UTAH PHILHARMONIA, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Sept. 20

If one didn’t know it, one would never guess the Utah Philharmonia is a university orchestra. Under the direction of Robert Baldwin the ensemble plays with a professionalism that is remarkable and impressive. These are very talented young musicians and it’s always a distinct pleasure hearing them play.

Baldwin and the Philharmonia opened their season Thursday with an ambitious program of 19th and 20th century works. Among them was Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. One of his more lyrical orchestral pieces it demands a conductor and orchestra with an expansive expressive palette to make it work. And Baldwin and his players certainly had it. They gave a very nuanced account in which everything was nicely balanced. The orchestra played wonderfully with fluid phrases and seamless lines. It was Brahms the way his music deserves to be played.

Soloing with the orchestra was University of Utah faculty member Heather Conner in Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. An amazing virtuoso of the keyboard himself, Prokofiev doesn’t let the pianist off easily. He wrote music that is demanding and virtuosic. And Conner, who is a fabulous pianist as she has shown many times over the years, made it all look easy. She put her considerable technical skills as well as her consummate pianism on display. It was a radiant account that sparkled with brilliant artistry.

The evening opened with a delightful reading of Antonin Dvorak’s vibrant Slavonic Dance, op. 46, no. 1.

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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.

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