Monday, May 25, 2020

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Concert Review: Salt Lake Symphony

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Saturday’s Salt Lake Symphony concert was a celebration of firsts: it was the first time the orchestra has played Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring; it was the first time Rite had been performed in Libby Gardner Concert Hall; and finally, it was the first Utah performance of Jett Hitt’s violin concerto,Yellowstone.

The iconic Rite of Spring caused a huge scandal when it premiered a century ago. And while it can still stir things up, it long ago found a permanent place in the orchestral repertoire. However, it’s not common to find it programmed by a community orchestra, but the Salt Lake Symphony is no ordinary community ensemble. It consists of ambitious and dedicated musicians who obviously love a challenge. And under the leadership of its music director, Robert Baldwin, they get plenty of opportunities to test their mettle.

Robert Baldwin

They gave a stellar performance of Stravinsky’s demanding ballet score. They played with flair, passion and power, as well as wonderfully articulated expressions and lyricism. There was nothing “community” about their performance; it was professional through and through.

Baldwin captured the vitality and drama of the work with his well conceived and executed reading. He showed his command of the score as he delved into its many nuances and subtleties of rhythm and orchestration. He brought the music to life and made it palpable in stunning fashion.

Hasse Borup

Hitt’s concerto is a lushly romantic piece that, even though it’s not programmatic, is nevertheless an evocative description of Yellowstone National Park. Soloist Hasse Borup gave a stunning performance that first and foremost exhibited his expressive side, while also showing his impressive technical mastery of his instrument. And Baldwin and the orchestra offered finely crafted accompaniment that balanced and at the same time contrasted with the solo part.

The concert opened with two movements from Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, op. 72. The orchestra was joined by a large number of local high school aged musicians. These young players fit right in with their older counterparts and the performance of these two pieces was exuberant and dynamic.

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