The Utah Symphony's first concerts of the 2012-13 season may have taken place last weekend, with the classic rock sounds of the Billy Joel songbook. But for all intents and purposes, the real season opener is happening this weekend, with classic Rach Rachmaninoff, that is.
The orchestra traditionally includes some Beethoven on opening night, but after last season's Beethoven symphony extravaganza, that venerable composer was nowhere to be heard in Abravanel Hall on Friday night. Instead, music director Thierry Fischer and the orchestra served up a piano concerto and a symphony by Rachmaninoff. With that combination, you'd expect a standing-room crowd, but Friday's house, while respectably large and undeniably appreciative, was not sold out.
The 30-something, Russian-born pianist Yevgeny Sudbin was the soloist in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1. Sudbin's playing has an appealing lyric quality, and his light, clean touch made the concerto seem to breeze by. The orchestra's accompaniment, likewise, was lighter than one usually hears in Rachmaninoff almost sparkling, in fact. Sentiment was in surprisingly short supply. (Sudbin's encore selection, which he didn't announce but which sounded suspiciously like Scarlatti, was also more about technique than emotion.)