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Symphony to end its season with ‘1812'

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The Utah Symphony will conclude its summer season next weekend with a bang — literally — when it performs the "1812 Overture" with live cannons.

Featuring guestconductor Daniel Meyers and guestpianist Xiang-Dong Kong, winner of the 1998 Gina Bachauer International Competition, the symphony's program will consist of allRussian works.

"The program is a mix of Russian orchestral masterpieces, but with a little twist," Meyers said during a telephone interview from Springville, Mass. "The twist is that it's got some other influences, since we're doing the "Capriccio Espagnol" by Rimsky-Korsakov. "(It) is a decidedly Russian piece, but it's also very Spanish. In fact, Rimsky-Korsakov copied a lot of the melodies in the piece from an anthology that he found in a library in St. Petersburg. He's completely transformed it into a wonderful suite of Spanish dances. No two bars are alike in this whole piece. It's got a very distinctive flavor, and it also really showcases the soloists in the orchestra, especially the concertmaster and also the harpist."

"Polonaise," the piece that opens the third act of Tchaikovsky's opera, "Eugene Onegin," starts after pretty much most of the dramatic action has taken place, Meyers said. "The love triangle has already played itself out, and there's been a duel. This kind of sets the stage for the final scene, where Onegin makes his way back to town and tries to woo Tatiana. She'll have nothing of it after all he's done to her. But it's a very stately kind of exciting concert opener."

The final piece on the program will be, what else? Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."

"You can't end a summer season without the 1812," said Meyers. "I was reading a funny quip about Tchaikovsky trying to premier this particular piece. His idea, initially, was to wire up the cannons electronically from the podium, so that he could press the buttons when the cannons were supposed to go off and fire them himself. It never came to fruition. It's really kind of scary, practically, if you're trying to turn pages and press buttons and conduct the orchestra at the same time."

Meyers' career as a conductor began as a composer. "I had composed a couple of pieces both for unaccompanied choir and for choir with orchestra at Denison University, which is in Granville, Ohio. I was invited by the conductor there to conduct my own works. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I kind of got the bug. From then on, it's kind of been a — I wouldn't say 'calling,' but it's taken quite a bit of my life."

As a young conductor, Meyers said, "There are kind of two paths you can take. One way is to work in an opera house. You work your way up as a pianist and as a coach for singers, and kind of work your way in that way. However, I think the trend now, especially with American conductors, is either to enroll in a conducting program here in the states or abroad, and then apprentice with a symphony orchestra and work your way up that way."

The latter is Meyers' choice. "I was just appointed the assistant conductor of the Knoxville Symphony in Knoxville, Tenn.," he said. "I had spent the previous season as the apprentice conductor, and then re-auditioned for the position of assistant conductor. I'm also a doctoral candidate at the Boston University School for the Arts."

Meyers has conducted performances in places such as Boston, Aspen, Vienna and Athens, and he says he's looking forward to working with the Utah Symphony.

The performances will be held on Saturday, Aug. 26, at Deer Valley, and Sunday, Aug. 27, at Snowbird, with the performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets may be obtained by calling ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS or 1-888-451-ARTS, or by visiting the ArtTix outlets at Abravanel Hall or the Capitol Theatre, or online at www.arttix.org.