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Symphony to spotlight 2 of its own

Concertmaster, bassist will perform as soloists

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This week's Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra concert will feature two of the orchestra's own as soloists. Concertmaster Ralph Matson and principal bass David Yavornitzky will be showcased in a program of music from the baroque era and the 20th century.

One exception on the program, however, will be Giovanni Bottesini's Concerto No. 2 in B minor for Double Bass and Orchestra. According to Yavornitzky, this work indulges in romantic sensibilities. "It's a good example of romantic music of the period," he told the Deseret News.

During his lifetime, Bottesini, who was a contemporary of Verdi, was better known as an opera conductor, as well as a composer of several modestly successful operas. Today, Bottesini's fame rests on a handful of concertos he wrote for the double bass. "Bottesini was the greatest double-bass virtuoso of his time, and possibly of any time," Yavornitzky said, "and the B minor is his most popular concerto."

The reason for this work's popularity is simple. "It's very tuneful in an operatic sense — it's a very opera-drama sort of concerto — and it's very virtuosic," Yavornitzky explained.

Something that will be more familiar to audiences than the Bottesini is Vivaldi's Concerto for Violin in E minor, op. 11, no. 2, in which Matson will be the soloist. "This concerto is called 'Il favorito,' but I don't know how it got that name — it must have been very popular," Matson said.

Vivaldi is one of Matson's favorite composers, and he enjoys the opportunity of playing the E minor concerto with the Utah Symphony. "Vivaldi is a terrific composer, and this is an unearthly beautiful work."

Matson pointed out that Vivaldi was unquestionably the greatest concerto composer of the baroque and that J.S. Bach held his works in high regard. "Bach admired Vivaldi greatly, and they borrowed from each other. And the Vivaldi is similar to Bach's E major (violin) concerto."

In the past, when Matson had appeared as soloist with the symphony, he never played the rest of the concert with the orchestra. This time, however, he's made a notable exception for Stravinsky's Suite from "Pulcinella," which is one of the other works on this week's concert. "I did something naughty for this concert," Matson admitted. "I usually don't play in the orchestra if I'm playing solo, but 'Pulcinella' has some fabulous solo passages (for violin), and I will be playing that."

Yavornitzky also has a soft spot for the Stravinsky. "I always look forward to playing the 'Pulcinella' Suite, because it has a prominent double-bass part."

However, unlike Matson, Yavornitzky won't be indulging himself at the concert. As Yavornitzky explained it, bass players use a different tuning when performing a concerto than the one they use when playing in an orchestra. "We tune a whole step higher to play concertos," which necessitates changing all four strings of the instrument, a time-consuming procedure. "I've got it down to under an hour, though," he added.

Both men agree that it's good for the audience to see musicians from the Utah Symphony spotlighted occasionally as soloists. "I think the audience is enthused by having members of the orchestra appear as soloists," Matson said. "It enhances people's appreciation of the (symphony)."

And Yavornitzky pointed out a fact that most people don't realize: "We have gone to school for many, many years, and we have to learn all these concertos that (concert artists) play, and we have to play them to get into the orchestra."

The concert, which will be conducted by music director Keith Lockhart, takes place Thursday, Jan. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in Abravanel Hall. Besides the two concertos and the Stravinsky, the orchestra will also play the first set of Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances." (The concert will also play Wednesday, Jan. 23, 7:30 p.m. in Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden.)

Tickets are priced from $16-$32 and can be purchased through ArtTix at 355-ARTS or 1-888-451-ARTS or in person at the ArtTix outlets in Abravanel Hall and the Capitol Theatre. Tickets are also available online at www.utahsymphony.org. Utah Symphony subscribers should call 533-NOTE, and anyone interested in group discounts can contact Josh Shimizu at 715-9211 or by e-mail at j.shimizu@utahsymphony.org

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com