Facebook Twitter

S.L. Symphony’s season gets off to delightful start

SHARE S.L. Symphony’s season gets off to delightful start

The Salt Lake Symphony, conducted by James Michael Caswell, opened its new season Friday evening with an exciting concert featuring the music of Haydn, Leonard Bernstein and Ralph Vaughn Williams.

The orchestra played admirably under Caswell's direction. Aside from a few minor problems early on, he managed to get the orchestra to play with conviction, and he showed himself to be an able interpreter of the music.The first work on the program was Haydn's Symphony No. 100 in G major, "Military." This work, one of Haydn's last symphonies, gets its name from the trumpet fanfares in the second movement and the inclusion of bass drum, cymbals and triangle in the second and fourth movements. Caswell attempted a dramatic performance of this symphony, which unfortunately was only partly successful. The phrasing was not as well-delineated as could be wished for, and the last movement was played rather sloppily, without the clarity and precision needed to make this movement effective. Intonation was also a bit of a problem here.

The other two works on the program exhibited none of the problems that were evident in the Haydn symphony. Intonation was near-perfect, and Caswell achieved a fine balance between the sections of the orchestra, never allowing one to overpower another.

The second piece on the program was Leonard Bernstein's "Halil Nocturne" for Solo Flute, Percussion and Strings, from the 1970s. The symphony's principal flutist, Laurel Ann Maurer, was soloist. She is an outstanding flutist, very expressive and also very dramatic when the music demands it. She performed this work as if it had been written for her, with a total command of the music. Caswell also did an outstanding job supporting her, never letting the orchestra drown her out.

"Halil" (which means "flute" in Hebrew) is an interesting piece, and one of Bernstein's better orchestral works. The work blends and contrasts dissonant, abrasive sections for the entire ensemble with very melodic passages for the solo flute and the strings. It's an effective piece and was played with great skill and musicality by the orchestra. The members of the percussion section must also be lauded for their tremendous work.

The last work performed was Ralph Vaughn Williams' "Song of Thanksgiving," written in 1945 to celebrate the end of World War II. The orchestra, which also now included organ, was joined by soprano Carol Nelson, narrator Carolee Eriksson and the University of Utah Concert Chorale. This combined ensemble did a wonderful job with the work. This is a very robust and resounding piece, qualities that were enhanced by the wonderful acoustics in Assembly Hall.

Nelson is a fine soprano with a bright, clear voice, making her a delight to listen to. The chorale is also a first-rate ensemble, and they blended well with the orchestra. And once again, Caswell did a great job in balancing the various sections.

Without doubt, the audience at Friday's concert was treated to a delightful program, played by a fine local orchestra.