Review: Utah Symphony packs a lot of entertainment into 2-hour concert

Review • Utah Symphony packs an entertaining punch.
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Every now and again comes a Utah Symphony performance packed with so much music, you wonder how the orchestra fit it all into a two-hour concert.

This weekend's programs in Abravanel Hall feature not one but three Ravel favorites, music from a lesser-known Stravinsky ballet and a Saint-Saëns piano concerto that's one of the top party pieces in the repertoire. (Music director Thierry Fischer and the orchestra actually overran that two-hour running time Friday with the inclusion of a tribute to the towering American composer Elliott Carter, who died on Tuesday at age 103.)

Though the orchestra's publicity arm gave top billing to Ravel's eternally popular "Boléro," the evening's soloist was Argentine-born pianist Ingrid Fliter, who gave a splendid account of Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No. 2. Fliter is a dynamic performer with exceptionally nimble fingers. Her sparkling execution of the proliferation of trills in the concerto's finale was a sheer delight. Under Fischer's expert direction, the orchestra joined her in exploring the piece's many moods, from majesty to mystery to merriment, with more than a hint of mischief thrown in. Many audience members were caught up in the fun; appreciative laughter mingled with the loud ovation at the work's conclusion.

Fischer cannily saved "Boléro" for last. Don't look for cerebral development of musical themes here — Ravel's greatest hit is all about color and control. New principal percussionist Keith Carrick was the steady center of the action, stationed with his snare drum in the midst of the principal string players as Fischer and the orchestra carefully crafted a slow and inexorable crescendo. There are too many solo turns to mention in "Boléro," and all of them came off stylishly in Friday's performance.

The concert also featured two diametrically contrasting Ravel pieces, the "Pavane for a Dead Princess" and "La Valse." The sweetly poignant strings shone in the "Pavane," while Fischer expertly guided "La Valse" from its polite beginnings to a hair-raising conclusion.

Music from another master of orchestral coloration, Igor Stravinsky, opened the evening. The Utah Symphony's delicate, poised performance of the Divertimento from "The Fairy's Kiss" invited interesting comparisons to Ravel. —

Utah Symphony

Music of Stravinsky, Ravel and Saint-Saëns.

With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and pianist Ingrid Fliter.

When • Reviewed Friday, Nov. 9; repeats Saturday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m..

Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.

Tickets • $23-$58 at 801-355-ARTS, or the box office.

Running time • Two hours and 15 minutes, including intermission.

Learn more • Fischer and Utah Symphony VP Toby Tolokan will discuss the music onstage at 7 p.m. Free to ticketholders.