This weekend's Utah Symphony concerts celebrate dance. Thirtysomething conductor Andrew Grams, returning to Abravanel Hall after well-received outings in 2009 and 2011, leads the orchestra in three ballet suites. The fourth work on the program, George Gershwin's lively tone poem "An American in Paris," might as well be considered ballet music, having been featured memorably in the Gene Kelly film of the same name.
Grams won over the good-sized audience, and apparently the orchestra as well, with his clear, economical conducting style. Under his direction, the Utah Symphony achieved a transparent texture that made the familiar feel fresh. The exuberant performance of "An American in Paris," which closed the concert, may have been the audience favorite, with its jaunty taxi horns and an impressive outing from new principal trumpet Travis Peterson. But Grams' insightful and affectionate reading of Aaron Copland's suite from "Appalachian Spring" proved the biggest revelation. The conductor managed to evoke heart-stopping stillness and bracing vibrancy, sometimes at the same time. Clarinet principal Tad Calcara contributed some especially poignant moments.
The evening opened with the ballet music from Charles Gounod's "Faust." Crisp articulation from the strings highlighted this colorful performance.