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It’s been shut down for months. Now the Utah Symphony has a big season ahead

‘It’s a sign that life can get back to some semblance of normal again,’ Steven Brosvik, the president and CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, told the Deseret News

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Thierry Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony Orchestra, conducts a practice at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. On Tuesday, the Utah Symphony announced a full return for the 2021-22 season.

Thierry Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony Orchestra, conducts a practice at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. On Tuesday, the Utah Symphony announced a full return for the 2021-22 season.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

It’s a big week for the Utah Symphony.

After months of being shut down, the symphony returns to Abravanel Hall later this week for its first public performance since the fall. And on Tuesday, the symphony announced a full return for the 2021-22 season.

“It’s so refreshing and reaffirming,” Steven Brosvik, the president and CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, told the Deseret News from his office at Abravanel Hall on Tuesday. “It’s a sign that life can get back to some semblance of normal again.”

Highlights for the upcoming season include multiple appearances from master violinist Hilary Hahn, works from new composers, the return of the symphony’s “Films in Concert” series — including “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” — and the performance of an orchestral work inspired by Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect this season.


Hilary Hahn

Violin superstar Hilary Hahn last appeared with the Utah Symphony in 2018. This time around, though, the Grammy Award-winning violinist will perform on multiple occasions. Throughout the season, Hahn will perform the Brahms Violin Concerto, Alberto Ginastera’s 1963 Violin Concerto — a piece Brosvik said is “rarely performed” because of the difficulty level — and Pablo de Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy.”

Hahn 41, made her Utah Symphony debut at a New Year’s Eve performance when she was 13, according to a news release sent to the Deseret News. Brosvik met the violinist in the 1990s, when she was recording the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony.

“It’s been really rewarding watching her grow and become the artist she is, and we were fortunate enough to get two weeks with her,” he told the Deseret News, adding that Hahn will also be engaging with the kids and organizations in the community during her time in Utah.

Note: Other critically acclaimed guest artists returning to the Utah Symphony next season include Stephen Hough, Vadim Gluzman, Ingrid Fliter, Joyce Yang, Louis Schwizgebel, Augustin Hadelich, Steven Osborne and Veronika Eberle.

Upcoming guest artists Andrei Korobeinikov, Inmo Yang, Benjamin Grosvenor, Daniel Lozakovich and Anthony McGill will make their Utah Symphony debuts during the 2021-22 season.


New works and composers

The Utah Symphony will perform the world premiere of Arlene Sierra’s “Bird Symphony,” as well as the U.S. premieres of two other works by the London-based composer. Throughout the season, the symphony will also showcase works from lesser-known and modern-day composers like George Walker and Gabriela Lena Frank.

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Thierry Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony, conducts a practice at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. On Tuesday, the Utah Symphony announced a full return for the 2021-22 season.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

“We’re really trying to continue to explore new voices who we haven’t really celebrated on the stage,” Brosvik said. “And I know some people get tired of us throwing in that new work, along with standard repertoire. But I was listening to Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony last night in the car on the way home and being reminded by the announcer that when Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony premiered, it was completely panned. And now it’s one of the most beloved works in the repertoire and audiences will flock to hear that piece. It’s part of our responsibility to help find the next Tchaikovsky.”


Family entertainment

The Utah Symphony continues its “Films in Concert” series, where the musicians perform the scores to classic movies as they unfold on the big screen. Over the 2021-22 season, the symphony will perform the music to “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” “Back to the Future,” “Home Alone” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

Other family events include a holiday show featuring Jodi Benson — the voice of “Ariel” in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” — a Broadway-themed concert and Cirque de la Symphonie, which features a mashup of symphony musicians and acrobats.


A Utah-inspired project

This upcoming season, the Utah Symphony is continuing a special project that was cut short by the pandemic, performing all of the movements of an orchestral piece that was inspired by Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.

It’s a project Thierry Fischer — who is in his 13th season as Utah Symphony music director — has wanted to do for some time.

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Thierry Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony, conducts a practice at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. On Tuesday, the Utah Symphony announced a full return for the 2021-22 season.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

Titled “Des Canyons aux etoiles” (“From the Canyons to the Stars”), the large piece — a 90- to 100-minute performance when played in its entirety — was inspired by French composer Olivier Messiaen’s visit to southern Utah in the 1970s. But while the piece is popular in Europe, it is largely unknown in Utah and the United States at large, according to the Deseret News.

“Since I arrived here, I always wanted to program it,” Fischer told the Deseret News last year. “But I’ve been told if we do that, there would be 300 people in the hall because it’s not a popular piece. … So everybody was nonstop telling me, ‘Thierry, don’t do that. It’s a waste. You’ll be happy musically, but don’t do that.’”

The symphony performed eight of the 12 movements during the 2019-20 season and will play the final four movements over the course of the 2021-22 season. Brosvik said he is especially excited to see this project all the way through, and that the symphony may consider doing a special performance of the piece outside of Zion National Park.

“As far as I’m concerned, no other orchestra should own this piece except this orchestra,” he said with a laugh. “It was written here, it’s about here. We named a mountain for the man (Mt. Messiaen in Parowan, Utah). It is a challenging piece of music, I’m not going to be shy about that. But I think it’s also a very special piece of music. ... So I’m hoping everybody will help us own that work and celebrate it this season.”

The upcoming season marks Fischer’s penultimate season with the Utah Symphony. In the fall 2020, the music director extended his contract through the 2022-23 season. The conductor will then lead the Sao Paulo Symphony in Brazil full time.

“We are so pleased to provide a wide range of live music to our faithful audience next season,” Fischer said in a statement on Tuesday. “Let’s step away from our screens and return to enjoy music together again. Live art will help save the world.”


Note: The 2021-22 season will run Sept. 24, 2021, through May 28, 2022. To view the full schedule, visit utahsymphony.org. Subscription renewals and purchases went on sale March 23 while single tickets for the new season will be available starting June 15.