This year the programming for the Utah Symphony concerts is focused on Beethoven. The first concert of the year featured the Ninth Symphony and tonight we got the 8th. They are being performed in reverse order and will end with the 1st.
Thierry Fischer, our conductor, was in very good form tonight. I am happy to say that I was right when I predicted that good things were in store for us as a community!
Tonight's concert began with two short pieces by Stravinsky Suites No. 1 and No. 2. I don't recall ever having heard the first suite before but I know I have heard the second one. The second made me think of a sort of off-center circus, for the Marche, Valse, and Polka movements and the Galop made me think of a big, busy city. There were comic moments in the Valse and Polka movements that at their conclusion brought a ripple of laughter throughout the audience.
These pieces were followed by a wonderful performance of Symphony No. 8. It was crisply played, never dragging, and quite lovely. The Utah Symphony has uniformly strong sections and the woodwinds shone, as did the horns and of course the strings. I enjoyed it very much.
Probably the highlight of the evening, though, was Garrick Ohlsson's performance of the Piano Concerto No. 5 (Beethoven's last one). Ohlsson's playing was masterful: delicate and with great restraint at times and powerful at others. The romantic character of this concerto was very much in evidence but there was no sloppy sentimentalism. He struck exactly the right balance for me.
I wondered how anything could follow that but Ohlsson returned to the stage and gave us an encore. (Everyone was standing and applauding heartily!) It was Chopin's Waltz in E Flat (Opus 18), a piece it seems everyone knows.
I enjoyed myself very, very much. My knee is shouting at me these days and anything that can distract me so completely from the pain has to be pretty amazing. It certainly was!
The bagpiper is back. I was trying to keep the melodies I heard in Abravanel Hall going in my head as I waited for the train to take me to my car and it's not easy.
Tomorrow I have a couple of social things and then Sunday I need to hunker down, pack my bag for the re-hab facility and do the last minute things before my departure Monday morning for the Orthopaedic Center.
I probably will be out of touch here until I get home again. That will be about ten days, possibly longer, although I am hoping not.