Add one more name to the list of fine young fiddlers who have distinguished this year's Utah Symphony season. That is Japanese-born Tomohiro Okumura, who Friday at Abravanel Hall won more than one heart with his performance of the Glazunov Violin Concerto.
Yet he did it without undue theatrics, or anything that might be construed as flash. Rather this was suavely assured playing, with an affectingly inward quality that somehow enhanced the concerto's romantic overtones.Take the understated warmth he brought to the opening Moderato, nearly as beguiling as the even more lyrical Andante, which was here invested with an almost Kreislerian ardor. Likewise the virtuosic cadenza, here artful but unpressured, its two-violin effects even finding room for the occasional nocturnal shiver.
Indeed I wouldn't have minded a bit more pressure in the finale, tunefully striding but a mite heavy in spots, even in the otherwise carefully molded accompaniment.
Elsewhere guest conductor Leif Bjaland likewise made a strong impression, beginning with a brashly energetic reading of Dvorak's "Carnival" Overture. Yet for all its exuberance, things were never quite unbuttoned, the conductor's occasionally flamboyant podium manner never overwhelming his precise control of the orchestra.
Nor was strength or flamboyance in short supply in the performance that followed intermission, here of the Prokofiev Fifth Symphony.
Witness the first movement, which after a slightly unsteady start built to one huge climax after another, yet without neglecting the music's darker side, especially the searing cymbals and gong and deeply rumbling bass drum.
This was followed by the scherzo, for all its comic touches still Russian in spirit and sound, from the pained lyricism of the midsection to the fierce momentum of the return, again big, fast and corrosive.
After which the slow movement sounded almost exhausted, its weary songfulness eventually giving way to another smoldering climax, followed by the wistfull chill of the coda and semi-playful transition to the finale.
Earlier, in his pre-concert remarks, Bjaland related this movement to the rebuilding of Russia following the onslaught of World War II. (The work dates from 1944, having been premiered in Moscow the following January.) But I'm not quite sure how that was reflected in the metallic wit of this performance, which managed to communicate both fire and ice with just a hint of a smile - for example, the slyly inflected woodwind solos.
Still, that was easier to relate to than his likening the driving second movement to the TV comedy "Gilligan's Island," right down to specific characters. A generational thing? Who knows? Maybe in another 30 years some young conductor will be comparing it with "Beavis and Butthead."