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It's an adventurous weekend for the Utah Symphony. On the same day it released "Dawn to Dust," an album of three engaging new works it has helped bring into the world, the orchestra performed an invigorating program celebrating planetary exploration.

Conductor Hans Graf, longtime music director of the Houston Symphony, returned to Abravanel Hall to lead the Utah Symphony in Gustav Holst's "The Planets." From the hair-raising "Mars, the Bringer of War" to the haunting "Neptune, the Mystic," Graf and the orchestra captivated the sold-out crowd. Among the orchestral MVPs were former principal trombonist Larry Zalkind, returning from his new post at the Eastman School of Music to play the tenor tuba, and the always-stylish harp duo of Louise Vickerman and Matthew Tutsky. The women of the Utah Symphony Chorus, prepared by Barlow Bradford, were stunning in the wordless chorus that distinguishes the "Neptune" movement; it was unfortunate that some hasty applause diminished the effect of their last notes.

As colorful as the orchestra's performance of "The Planets" was, it got a boost from an eye-popping compilation of NASA footage of each planet. The scenes from Mars were particularly vivid.

Pluto, which was left out of Holst's suite and suffered a further indignity when it was demoted to dwarf planet 10 years ago, got its due earlier in the evening. The orchestra performed György Ligeti's otherworldly "Atmosphères" as even more astonishing shots from the recent New Horizons expedition, compiled into a video by Salt Lake City's Clark Planetarium, played above the musicians' heads.

A rousing performance of Alexander Scriabin's "Poem of Ecstasy," highlighted by Travis Peterson's heroic trumpet playing, rounded out the program. —

Utah Symphony

The orchestra performs Gustav Holst's "The Planets" and György Ligeti's "Atmosphères," with HD space footage, plus Alexander Scriabin's "Poem of Ecstasy."

With • Conductor Hans Graf and the women of the Utah Symphony Chorus

When • Reviewed Friday, April 8; repeats Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m.

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

Running time • 2 hours, including intermission

Tickets • $23-$84 (discounts for students, under-30s and groups);