UTAH SYMPHONY, Abravanel Hall, Friday, also tonight (355-2787).

Seven years is a long time to wait for the return engagement of a conductor who proved himself popular with both the audience and the musicians of the Utah Symphony. And in Graeme Jenkins' case, his return was certainly worth the wait.

Jenkins was one of the dozen conductors who led the Utah Symphony during the orchestra's music director search. He conducted the symphony to great acclaim back in 1997. This weekend, he made his long overdue return appearance in no less triumphant fashion.

Jenkins brought his refined dramatic sense and flair for timing to Abravanel Hall in a program of music by Dvorak, Mendelssohn and Brahms. Subtleties in expression, dynamics and articulation characterized his readings at Friday's performance.

In Brahms' Symphony No. 2, which took up the second half, Jenkins' interpretation emphasized the lyricism of the work. He took each of the symphony's movements at a fairly broad tempo, bringing out the idyllic character of the work exceptionally well.

Despite his choice of tempos, Jenkins' expansive reading nevertheless captured the intensity of expression in the symphony. It was a decisive and perceptive interpretation that gave a panoramic view of the work.

The Utah Symphony played the Brahms magnificently. Of the many remarkable solos, particularly noteworthy were the viola and cello sections.

Max Levinson is this weekend's guest soloist in Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor. As far as the composer's concertos go, the ones for piano have not proved as popular as his ubiquitous Violin Concerto. But both the First and the Second have much to recommend them. They are well-crafted works that contain an abundance of lyrical beauty.

The First shows up a bit more frequently than the Second. It has been played in Abravanel Hall in the past, although it's been a number of years now.

Levinson gave a wonderfully rich performance of the G minor Concerto. His intelligent, perceptive playing captured the storminess of the first movement, the quiet eloquence of the second and the capriciousness of the finale.

Levinson is a dynamic performer who possesses amazing technical skills as well as an almost innate musicality.

No less a significant factor was the collaboration between soloist and conductor. This was of the highest order, as Jenkins matched Levinson's performance in mood and character.


E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com