Symphony's 'Magic of Harry Potter' reveals the magic of music

Published: Saturday, Feb. 22 2014 3:40 p.m. MST

There's a fine line between magic and music. In fact, some might argue that there is no line at all. One thing's for certain: The Utah Symphony's "The Magic of Harry Potter" lived up to its name. It was nothing short of magical.

The symphony had to add a second show due to popular demand, with performances on Feb. 18 and 19. The audience was considerably younger than at most symphony performances as this was part of the symphony's family concert series. One only had to observe the children in the audience to see the positive effect the performance had.

The concert opened with an energetic rendition of John Williams' "Harry's Wonderous World," one of the more popular Potter themes. Utah Symphony Associate Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic then welcomed the audience, wizards and muggles alike.

"My name is Vladimir," he said, tongue-in-cheek. "Not Voldemort."

It quickly became clear that the magical evening would include plenty of classical music along with Williams' famous wizarding scores. The orchestra launched into Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which would cause many to picture not Harry Potter but rather Mickey Mouse, as the song was made famous by Disney's "Fantasia."

A highlight of the piece was an impeccable solo by principal bassoonist Lori Wike. In fact, the strongest points of the evening's performance came in the solos, with another notable one performed by principal flutist Mercedes Smith in Williams' "Witches, Wands and Wizards."

The entire woodwind section shone, especially as it navigated Williams' pieces. Williams has often demanded much of his brass and woodwinds, and the symphony rose to the occasion.

Kulenovic took breaks between each piece for some witty and light-hearted explanation, describing the symphony as if he were teaching a class at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. If you mix just the right instruments, he explained, you can create a potion of wonder.

The song selection for the evening was seamless and captivating. Even darker pieces, such as Modest Mussorgsky's "Hut on Fowl's Legs," were vibrant and contained such a variety of sounds that they were perfect for showcasing the magic an orchestra can create.

A little boy in the front row waved his Harry Potter wand vigorously to Igor Stravinsky's explosive "Infernal Dance of King Kastchei." He wasn't the only one with impressive wand skills; Kulenovic wields an orchestra like one would wield a single instrument. The orchestra was enchanting.

The evening rounded off with the beloved "Hedwig's Theme." The piece's iconic use of the celesta rivals Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" in how recognizable it is to the masses. And this time, the audience got to see a celesta.

Music has the power to tell stories and create feelings, Kulenovic explained throughout. That's the magic of it. (Imagine what "Harry Potter," "Star Wars" or "Superman" might've been like without Williams' music magic!)

"Your adventures can always be enhanced with a little bit of music," Kulenovic said.

Concerts such as this are also an opportunity for anyone who may not be too symphony-savvy. "The Magic of Harry Potter" proved that the symphony is for everyone.

Email: h.a.bowler@gmail.com

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