For 46 years, the Utah Symphony's Salute to Youth concerts have been a showcase of young talent. Sponsored by the Deseret Morning News, the annual event has given young artists from around the state the opportunity to perform with one of the premier orchestras of the country.
This year's concert was under the baton of Utah Symphony music director Keith Lockhart, who welcomed eight remarkably gifted performers ranging in age from 12 to 17 onto the stage of Abravanel Hall. As Lockhart said in his opening comments before introducing the first soloist, "(Salute to Youth) is a celebration of immense talent and a celebration of the application of that immense talent."
Chosen by an audition held last month, the eight lucky soloists selected to play Tuesday evening were pianists Caitlin Carmack and Zachary Coombs; violinist William Hagen; cellist Catherine Anne Willey; flutist Christina Lee; harpist Natalie Richards; marimba player Robyn Peterson; and soprano Angela Garrett.
Each of the soloists exhibited amazing composure and stage presence, in equal proportion to their impressive technical skills and musical sensibilities. All are to be lauded for putting on a performance that will long be remembered.
Starting the evening was Willey, who played David Popper's "Hungarian Rhapsody," op. 68. She set the tone for the entire concert with her bravura playing. Popper was a Hungarian cellist and composer who wrote dazzlingly demanding works for his instrument. And in her performance, Willey showed that she was up to the demands placed on the soloist.
She was followed by Lee, who gave a luminous performance of Cecile Chaminade's Concertino, op. 107. Lee captured the gentle melodicism of the work with her lyrical and expressive playing.
Marcel Tournier's "Feerie, Prelude et Danse," for harp and strings, is as lyrical in its writing as the Chaminade Concertino. Richards, who followed Lee, gave a seamless reading of this mellifluous piece that captured its alluring charm.
Peterson and Carmack rounded out the first half of the two-hour concert. Peterson gave a vibrant and animated performance of the first movement from Brazilian composer Ney Rosauro's Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, while Carmack's interpretation of the third movement from Carl Maria von Weber's "Konzertstuck," op. 79 was robust and dramatic.
Coombs opened the second half playing the first movement from Sergei Prokofiev's Third PIano Concerto. Coombs captured the power of the bold statements with his decisive playing that showed wonderful dexterity and technical astuteness.
Following Coombs was Garrett, who gave a shimmering performance of "O luce di quest' anima" from Gaetano Donizetti's opera "Linda di Chamounix." Garrett displayed her vocal prowess in the coloratura aria, singing it with clarity and beautifully delineated lines.
Hagen closed out the evening with a stellar performance of Julius Conus' one-movement Concerto in E minor. His playing was stunning, exhibiting a maturity and keen musicality that went far beyond his 12 years. He made short work of the concerto's virtuosity, giving a richly nuanced and articulate performance.