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Utah Symphony 2017-18 season to include Saint-Saens cycle recording, Broadway stars

The Utah Symphony announced today the lineup for its 2017-18 season, which includes highlights such as a Saint-Saens cycle that will be recorded by a European label, performances by Tony Award-winners Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell and concerts with internationally acclaimed soloists and conductors.

“There’s so much energy coming from the stage,” Toby Tolokan, vice president of symphony artistic planning, said in an interview with the Deseret News. “With 30 new players within the last six to seven seasons coming into the orchestra, the combination of the veteran performers and the young performers working in this collaboration with Thierry (Fischer's) direction and the guest conductors makes a phenomenal evening.”

Utah Symphony music director Thierry Fischer has included several composer cycles in the symphony’s programming during his time as music director, according to a news release, and the 2017-18 performances of all five symphonies by French composer Camille Saint-Saens continues that tradition.

“(The Saint-Saens cycle) goes back to Thierry’s vision, I think, which is very important that you not only occasionally dip into these worlds (of the composers) but to totally immerse the orchestra in these worlds … I think is a really great idea,” Tolokan said.

The Utah Symphony will become the first American orchestra to record the full Saint-Saens cycle as all five symphonies and several other works by the composer will be recorded live and released on three CDs by European label Hyperion, according to the news release.

“As an orchestra that’s trying and deserves to have a broader national audience and national profile, it’s a project like (the Saint-Saens recordings) that’s going to get us that attention,” Utah Symphony and Utah Opera president and CEO Paul Meecham said.

Paul Meecham, the president and CEO of the Utah Symphony, discusses some of the highlights of the symphony's 2017-18 season.

Fischer has put emphasis on Utah Symphony’s recording opportunities in recent years, which he said helps the organization as a whole progress.

“I think it’s good because it just puts attention on the orchestra and also it’s challenging artistically for us, which is good,” Fischer said. "For me … always my top priority is to find challenges for all of us because as soon as we are happy, we are one step behind.”

The Saint-Saens cycle is part of the symphony’s O.C. Tanner Company Masterworks Series, which includes 18 weeks of concerts over the course of the season, 12 of which will be conducted by Fischer. The other six will be led by guest conductors, including Utah Symphony favorites such as Mark Wigglesworth, newcomer Karina Canellakis and Kazuki Yamada, who made his U.S. conducting debut with the Utah Symphony in 2015, according to the news release.

“Our list of guest conductors is amazing, and this shows again how happy I am that we are now attracting these kind (of guests),” Fischer said.

Several internationally recognized guest soloists will also perform during the Masterworks Series, including Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn and Utah-native violinist William Hagen, who grew up playing with the orchestra as part of its Salute to Youth concerts, Tolokan said.

“It’s really neat that Will is part of our season as his career is just taking off,” he said. “It’s nice to have someone from here coming home, so to speak, for one week.”

Pianist Conrad Tao is also set to return to play with the orchestra twice in the 2017-18 season.

“His debut with us was in 2010, and because of the unbelievable success of that event, and because he’s just that good, he’s already been back with us multiple times since, and he’s going to play in two different Masterworks next season in an artist in residence situation,” Tolokan said.

In addition to the concerts in the Masterworks Series, the Utah Symphony will also offer five Zions Bank Entertainment Series programs, three Family Series concerts and four options in its new Films in Concert Series as well as several special event performances, including a gala concert with Renee Fleming to honor Utah Opera’s 40th anniversary.

Broadway star Mitchell will appear with the orchestra as part of a holiday pops concert in December, and Grammy-winning actress McDonald will make her Utah Symphony debut in March 2018, according to the news release.

“The (Entertainment Series) season is anchored around those two big names,” Meecham said.

Paul Meecham, president and CEO of the Utah Symphony, discusses the biggest responsibility of any symphony orchestra when performing.

Included in the Family Series will be the organization’s traditional “Here Comes Santa Claus!” concert, a concert themed around Dr. Suess’ “Green Eggs and Ham” and a concert with the Enchantment Theatre Company, a puppet theater based in Philadelphia. Meecham said the concerts for the Family Series are meant to cater to society's greater emphasis on multimedia.

“We’re doing shows that (are) not just symphonic works but (have) other art forms combining,” he said.

Even with a long list of well-known guests set to join the Utah Symphony on stage next season, Fischer noted that one of the main blockbusters of the season is the orchestra.

“Listen to the orchestra,” Fischer said. “We’re getting to a level that I think the orchestra is an attraction for itself.”

For a complete 2017-18 schedule and for tickets, visit