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The Salt Lake City area has a prominent professional symphony orchestra, dozens of community orchestras, a handful of chamber-music series and more choral ensembles than you can shake a baton at. But it's been a couple of decades since the area had a professional, free-standing chamber orchestra (the most recent example of note being Nick Norton's Colors of the Baroque in the early 1990s). That hiatus ended Monday night with the debut of Sinfonia Salt Lake, a lively mix of 18th-century and 20th-century music that held promise of even more exciting things to come.
The ensemble already has generated a bit of a buzz in the music community, and an appreciative audience filled downtown's cozy and inviting First United Methodist Church.
Sinfonia Salt Lake has a core of 15 string players, augmented on Monday by pianist-harpsichordist Pamela Palmer Jones, a handful of bonus string players and, in a particularly memorable appearance, flutist Christina Castellanos. Castellanos was featured on Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, where her graceful style meshed comfortably with the Sinfonia strings. She turned in some especially stylish playing in the suite's final, and best-known, movement, which Baldwin took at a lively tempo that delighted the crowd.
The Bach suite was sandwiched between two more recent works: Edward Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and Orchestra, dating from 1905, and Ernest Bloch's Concerto Grosso No. 1 written, as Baldwin noted, in 1925 as a way to demonstrate to the composer's students at the Cleveland Institute of Music that the time-honored format of a concerto grosso was still viable in the 20th century.
The opening work by Elgar is a bit more democratic than the title might suggest, though Sinfonia Salt Lake's first-chair players – Leslie Henrie, Micah Fleming, Leslie Richards and Cassie Olson had lovely solo turns. The Bloch piece, likewise, allowed the ensemble to show off the depth of its professionalism and skill.
Sinfonia Salt Lake
A new professional chamber orchestra makes its debut.
Where • First United Methodist Church, Salt Lake City
When • Monday, Jan. 25