SALT LAKE SYMPHONY, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Saturday
Salt Lake audiences know Gerald Elias as the Utah Symphony's longtime associate concertmaster. But Saturday, he showed another side of his musical personality when he guest-conducted the Salt Lake Symphony in Libby Gardner Concert Hall.
Elias has conducted small ensembles here in the past, but this was his local debut with a large orchestra. And it was an auspicious debut — so much so that one would like to see him direct an orchestra here more frequently.
What stood out in Elias' conducting was a keen sense and a wonderful understanding of the music. His interpretive talents are remarkable. He knows what he wants and he conveys that to the orchestra. And the musicians delivered. They gave a solid performance of each piece that once again showed they are one of the area's finest community orchestras.
On the program were works by two giants — Richard Wagner and Ludwig van Beethoven — along with a concerto by Franz Doppler, who was famous in his day but now is relegated to the footnotes of music history.
The evening opened with Wagner's overture to "Die Meistersinger." It's a wonderful showcase for the brass, and the section did a commendable job with it. However, the piece isn't a good choice for the hall. Owing to Libby Gardner's peculiar acoustics, the sonorous music was garbled and at times unintelligible.
Fortunately, that wasn't the case with the rest of the program.
Doppler's Concerto for Two Flutes followed "Die Meistersinger." The piece is a large-scale work in the best tradition of mid-19th century concertos. It places considerable demands on the two soloists, who have to put their virtuosic talents and expressive playing on display.
Soloists were Sergio Pallotelli and Susan Goodfellow, and the two gave a radiant performance that captured the drama and lyricism of the work wonderfully.
Especially striking was the slow movement, which is an eloquent operatic duet between the two soloists accompanied by the harp. Pallotelli and Goodfellow played this with feeling and emotional depth.
Closing out the evening was Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Elias captured the vitality and urgency of the music compellingly. It was a very dramatic reading that was bold and fiery.
Elias managed to bring excitement to this well-known work that even the most jaded listener would find intriguing. He wasn't afraid to bring romantic passion to his interpretation, and the result was an exhilarating performance that was intense, electrifying and boldly dynamic and vibrant.