One of the surprise hits of the Utah Symphony's summer season last year was its "Mini Mozart Festival." Appealing to concertgoers who wanted more than just all pops all summer long, the brief three-concert festival in August was a musical oasis that drew large audiences into the air-conditioned comfort of Abravanel Hall.
Next month, on three consecutive Thursday evenings, the Utah Symphony hopes to repeat that unexpected success by offering yet another series of concerts featuring the music of Mozart, and of other composers who were either his contemporaries or were influenced by the Austrian master.
On Thursday, Aug. 2, guest conductor Randall Craig Fleischer will be on the podium in Abravanel Hall to start things rolling.
No stranger to the Utah Symphony, Fleischer, who has conducted the orchestra on many occasions in the past, has assembled a program that includes two of Mozart's most endearing works — the overture to "The Abduction from the Seraglio" and the Symphony No. 36 ("Linz").
"Both are wonderful works," Fleischer said during a phone interview from his home in Southern California. "The overture to 'The Abduction from the Seraglio' is a fabulously spunky and lively piece. It's also one of the first works to include cymbals and a bass drum. In the 18th century, it was almost unheard of to have so much percussion in the orchestra."
As for the "Linz" Symphony, Fleischer noted that it's full of humor, especially in the opening movement, where Mozart has a little fun at Handel's expense. "At the same time that Mozart wrote the 'Linz' Symphony, he was also studying Handel's 'Messiah' — reorchestrating it, in fact. And so, in the first theme of the symphony's first movement, Mozart quotes the 'Hallelujah Chorus.' But Mozart being Mozart, he couldn't help but change it and have some fun with it. It's really wonderful."
Joining Fleischer and the Utah Symphony Thursday will be 25-year-old Czech pianist Martin Kasik, who'll be soloing in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2. "I enjoy playing this concerto," Kasik told the Deseret News. The pianist also pointed out that since the Second is one of the least performed of all of Beethoven's five piano concertos, it allows the soloist the opportunity of playing it with greater artistic freedom.
"There is space here to present yourself," Kasik said. "You do not have to worry about traditions."
Kasik also adds a personal touch to the Beethoven. "I composed my own cadenzas for this concerto. I feel that Beethoven's cadenzas don't work well because they were written much later than the concerto itself. I tried to make mine fit the music better. And people who have heard my cadenzas seem to be quite happy with them."
Fleischer agrees. "I think it's great that (Kasik) uses his own. More and more soloists seem to be writing their own cadenzas these days, which I think is wonderful — it puts their personality into the music."
Kasik, who won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York City two years ago, is a performer on the move. With a busy schedule of anywhere from 50 to 60 concerts a season, Kasik tries to divide his time between recitals, chamber music and orchestral appearances. And winning the YCA competition has certainly put him in the limelight, both in the United States and in Europe.
Before coming to Utah, for example, Kasik debuted at the Mozart festival in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he played Beethoven's Triple Concerto under Jeffrey Kahane.
And after his concert in Salt Lake City, the young artist will go to Europe for an extended tour, after which he returns to the United States for his debut with the Chicago Symphony, under the baton of Pinchas Zuckerman.
None of these heady firsts seems to have gone to Kasik's head, however.
The soft-spoken musician just wants the chance to perform as much as possible and not worry about his burgeoning career until he finishes his studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Czech Republic.
"I want to continue to present myself in concerts wherever I can," Kasik said.
"I like playing for people, and I enjoy the warm response I get from the audience."
The Utah Symphony concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. in Abravanel Hall.
Tickets are $10 and $15, with student tickets at $8. They can be purchased by calling ArtTix at 355-ARTS or 1-888-451-ARTS, or in person at the ArtTix outlets in Abravanel Hall or the Capitol Theatre.
Tickets can also be obtained online at www.utahsymphony.org.
Utah Symphony subscribers should call 533-NOTE for tickets, and anyone interested in group discounts can contact Josh Shimizu at 715-9211.