Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. - New York City Post Office.
Rain. Snow. Gloom of night. Northern Utah had all of that and more Tuesday. But like the letter carriers celebrated in the above inscription, that didn't keep this year's "Salute to Youth" soloists from their appointed sounds. Which is to say they also delivered.That's nothing new. For 31 years now the Deseret News and the Utah Symphony have been supplying the money, the hall and the orchestra, but it's the youths who supply the talent.
Take pianist Zhang Qing, now a student at the University of Utah. At 22, he is still slight of build, but I found myself forgetting that fact as he applied himself to the opening movement of Chopin's Piano Concerto in F minor. Perhaps this, too, was a bit swiftly completed. But for all his glibness at the keyboard, one sensed as well a strong poetic impulse, not to mention power in reserve.
Nor was power lacking in Utah State University senior Bill Stanley's account of the first movement of the Prokofiev Second Piano Concerto. Strongly shaped throughout, this was a performance that would have passed muster in any concert hall in the world, from its darkly lyrical softer sections to its smoldering climaxes. "That was fabulous!" someone near me exclaimed as the embers died down amid the applause, and I would have to agree.
I would also have to agree with the ovation that followed 13-year-old Janae Codner's rendition of the finale of Moszkowski's Piano Concerto in E major. Nowhere here will you find the vitamins or substance of either Prokofiev or Chopin, but the sparks delight while they fly, and fly they did under the Provo teen's nimble fingers.
Nimble is also a word that could be applied to 17-year-old Benjamin Henderson's performance of the first movement of the Dragonetti Double Bass Concerto in A major. Not only did the Clearfield High student range up and down the staff, tossing off the rapid figurations with remarkable aplomb - he also did it without once making his unwieldy-looking instrument sound like a cello.
Some of the credit for that goes to conductor Joseph Silverstein, who via careful balancing (and a reduced orchestra) always let the double bass shine through. Likewise his treatment of the unconventional scoring of Hindemith's "Der Schwanendreher" - winds and a small number of cellos and basses - which similarly highlighted 18-year-old Leticia Oaks' perky viola playing, its semi-acrid flavor being pretty much in accord with the music.
But it wasn't just pianos and low strings on this Symphony Hall concert.
There was also a clarinet, in the form of 16-year-old Michelle Watabe's vividly percolated account of the virtuosic opening movement of Weber's Clarinet Concerto No. 2. Likewise a violin, here 15-year-old Rosalie Lund's incisively energetic view of the finale of the Bruch G minor Concerto. And even the human voice, via Salt Lake soprano Susan Huff's performance of the concert aria "Mia Speranza Adorata!" by Mozart.
Written for his sister-in-law, Aloysia Lange, this dramatic song of farewell would test any coloratura. But for the most part Huff met its challenges with fortitude, underlining not only the hard-to-reach upper notes but some of the more striking transitions with vigor and determination.
Which added a little heat to the evening. And a little less gloom to the night.