UTAH SYMPHONY, Keith Lockhart conducting, with pianist Eugene Watanabe, Thursday evening, Abravanel Hall. One performance only.
Thursday's Utah Symphony concert was the last of the three Mozart programs offered by the orchestra this summer. And this concert was an unqualified success, partly because of the programming, which combined two works of Mozart with a couple of pieces by Tchaikovsky and Ibert that were inspired by the Austrian composer, and partly because the concert brought Keith Lockhart back to the podium in Abravanel Hall.
Lockhart, who returned to Utah after about a month's absence, is without question a big draw here in Salt Lake City, as witnessed by the sizable crowd Thursday, which was considerably larger than the one that attended the previous week's Mozart concert. But, then, local concertgoers have had good reason to be enthusiastic about Lockhart; Thursday's performance was just another example of his talents in the classical field.
The concert showed him to be in full command of the music, and in the two Mozart pieces, Lockhart exhibited an innate sensitivity to the finely tuned nuances in dynamics and tempos. And a keen sense of rubato was also clearly evident.
Piano soloist for the evening was Salt Lake native Eugene Watanabe, who is no stranger to the Utah Symphony. Watanabe has performed with the orchestra on many occasions, starting with a Salute to Youth concert some 20 years ago.
Watanabe played Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466, and his interpretation brought out the dramatic intensity of the music as well as its lyrical qualities. Watanabe is an immensely talented performer, who displays a good deal of musicality along with his considerable technical prowess. And his collaboration with Lockhart and the orchestra turned this into an emotionally charged and deeply personal performance.
The other Mozart on the program was the Symphony No. 35 in D major, K. 385, "Haffner." Lockhart took this work at a consistently fast tempo and turned it into an exciting and rhythmically driven piece that was relentless in its energy and vigor and totally engrossing.
Ibert's "Hommage a Mozart" opened the concert. The work was commissioned to celebrate Mozart's 200th birthday and was premiered in France in 1957. The piece is neoclassical in style and could almost have been lifted directly from the 18th century, except for its harmonic language, which is thoroughly 20th century.
Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 4, op. 61, "Mozartiana," closed out the evening. Tchaikovsky bases each of the four movements of his suite on separate pieces by Mozart, and the work becomes, in Tchaikovsky's hands, a remarkable 19th century reworking of classical themes.