NEW YORK — Fifty years ago, under the direction of then-music director Maurice Abravanel, the Utah Symphony had its first performance at Carnegie Hall as the opener of the venue's 75th anniversary season in 1966.
Now in the midst of its own 75th anniversary season, the orchestra is poised to perform once again at the celebrated concert hall Friday, April 29. The concert will be the orchestra's first return in 40 years and its fourth overall, according to the Utah Symphony.
“It’s symbolic of reaching a certain level of artistry which allows you to perform in that kind of venue, and it celebrates our heritage of Maurice Abravanel having taken the orchestra there,” said Patricia A. Richards, interim president and CEO of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. “It’s kind of an homage to Maestro Abravanel and to the great history of the orchestra to go there again as part of our anniversary.”
Violinist Lynette Stewart, who has been playing with the Utah Symphony for 47 years, performed at Carnegie Hall with the orchestra as part of its 1971 tour.
“(Carnegie Hall) has such a rich history of great artists and great orchestras having performed there through the years," she said. "When I was first in the orchestra, the orchestra had only been there one other time, and it was such a new experience for me. To relive that is very exciting for me."
Richards said the return to Carnegie Hall has been part of the organization's vision for the anniversary for some time and that the visit to New York also presents other opportunities.
“We felt it was really important not only to celebrate our anniversary within the state by performing some exceptional works and programs this year, but also to take the orchestra back to New York and show the nation what Utah has to offer and what the Utah Symphony has to offer,” she said. “We’re really trying to use this as an occasion to promote the quality of life and the economy of Utah as well as our rich cultural heritage.”
Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer said he and the organization are grateful for the support of the community that makes the trip possible.
“I’m well aware that we are representing our community, we are representing the people supporting us," he said. "Without the support and the trust of the community, we could never go there."
The program features four pieces: Haydn's Symphony No. 96, "Miracle"; Andrew Norman's percussion concerto "Switch," which was commissioned by the Utah Symphony for its 75th anniversary season and will feature British percussionist Colin Currie; five suites from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet"; and the suite from Bartok's "The Miraculous Mandarin."
"I wanted to … put a symbol around this concert, and the notion of 'miracle' came to me," Fischer said, noting that the concert begins and ends with two different ways of looking at miracles. "The 'Miracle' of Haydn is more about simplicity and beauty, and the miracle of 'The Miraculous Mandarin' is dramatic, horrible, cruel, unfair; it's more about transformation."
Fischer said his goal behind the concert program was to create diversity and offer selections different from what New York audiences are accustomed to hearing, while also highlighting a new work — "Switch" will be making its New York City premiere, according to the Utah Symphony — and providing "comfort" with a bit of familiar music.
"It’s also showing what we do, we do with enthusiasm, with determination,” he said. “It’s a very challenging program.”
Richards said the concert is designed to show the “incredible range” of the Utah Symphony.
“I think it just speaks to the artistry of our musicians,” she said.
Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife, Jeanette, are among many prominent Utahns planning to attend the concert in New York.
“The Utah Symphony is one of our state’s greatest gems,” Herbert said in a statement provided to the Deseret News. “It is not only an important part of our thriving arts community but is key to attracting businesses as well as a major contributor to the Utah’s elevated quality of life. We are proud of the Utah Symphony and as they celebrate their 75th anniversary at Carnegie Hall.”
Sponsors for the trip to Carnegie Hall include the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, the Stewart Family Foundation and O.C. Tanner.
"We're thrilled that our foundation's 'signature sponsorship' of the Utah Symphony's 75th Anniversary Season is helping showcase the excellence of Maestro Thierry Fischer and the symphony on a national stage at Carnegie Hall," said Spencer F. Eccles, chairman and CEO of the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, in a statement provided to the Deseret News. "For more than 30 years, we've valued and treasured the symphony for its key role in Utah's cultural life, and for its impact as an 'economic driver' attracting new businesses who value our strong arts community.
"We hope folks throughout Utah realize what a 'treasure' we have in the Utah Symphony, and will join in celebrating this milestone anniversary right here at home. At Carnegie Hall or Abravanel Hall, a Utah Symphony concert is something fantastic!"
Richards said the Utah Symphony is excited to share the experience with those in attendance.
“I think this trip is proving to be a real point of pride not only for our musicians but for our patrons and clearly for the state," she said.
But Fischer pointed out that regardless of where the Utah Symphony performs, the same level of care is put into each concert.
"I’m having the same approach, same attitude, same professionalism if I play in Ogden, in Provo, or in Salt Lake or in Canada or in Europe or in Carnegie Hall," he said. "A concert is a concert. There are no small concerts. That’s what’s beautiful in the notion of art, is that every concert is as important. As soon as we perform, we’re looking to be at our very best.
"So of course, the surrounding of New York is special because of the history, because of the venue … but this is, in terms of the artistic approach and what we’re going to give, to me, this is a reflection of what we are doing this season here in Salt Lake.”