A program of great range, though confined to the music of Beethoven, was the subject of the Utah Symphony's weekend's concerts. Small wonder that the range should be great, since Beethoven from start to finish, all 138 opuses and hundreds of individual compositions without opus numbers, encompassed more in one lifetime than many a dozen of other musicians.
Indeed, the development (one would feel presumptuous in saying "the growth," since he seems to have sprung to maturity almost instantly) of Beethoven was apparent in the three works - a youthful overture, a glistening piano concerto and a brilliant, driving symphony. They ranged from Opuses 37 to 92; and in years of age, spanned Beethoven's 33rd to 43rd years.As the transcendent soloist in the Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37, Misha Dichter displayed the artful simplicity of approach and impeccable style and taste that have stood him in good stead throughout his career.
The concerto constitutes an urbane and delightful dialogue between soloist and orchestra, and it was beautifully realized by both components. Silverstein's way with the orchestral support could hardly have been improved, perhaps because his and Dichter's artistries are of the same sort - fluent, relaxed, asserting authority through ideal interpretation of the music, rather than by personal intrusions.
Dichter does not attempt to bowl the audience over with technical tricks or inflated tone, and his bodily stance is among the least mannered in the business. Without fanfare, he establishes his dominance with a tone that is not especially luscious, even a little small per se. But his touch is unfailingly musical, his sound is always meaningful, and even at its quietest and softest, rises easefully above the orchestra.
An interesting phenomenon, this - how some artists thunder away at the piano and still disappear into the orchestral fabric, while others stand out free and clear, even with mezzo or soft dynamics. Perhaps the difference is that artists like Dichter never descend from a plane of clarity, an almost vocal, singing placement. Hence the ebb and flow of the music carries them along on top of the current, without undue effort on their part.
The Allegro con brio developed naturally, building of its own power to a clear, beautifully performed cadenza. Dichter was at his most affecting in an ideal interpretation of the sublime Largo, bringing a singing tone and the slightest of heartfelt, rhythmic nuance to one of Beethoven's most profound expressions. Throughout the unfolding of its beautiful variations, one felt the tug of its spirit, of unverbalized questions asked and answered.
Dichter and the orchestra led every listener by the hand into the sunny, joyous Allegro that concludes the concerto, exploring its sparkling, sometimes even jaunty passages with great brio, and again climaxing the movement with a translucent cadenza.
Turning to the intense, vital Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, Silverstein and the orchestra gave a reading of incisive brilliance.
The opening Vivace took off with vigor, with a bouncing vitality, yet never lost its grace. The Allegretto of the second movement is as slow as this symphony gets, but within its constantly reiterated theme is incorporated a sense of journey, of a life's progress, sometimes serene, sometimes driving and urgent, and finally fading away mysteriously - beautifully contained and controlled by the orchestra.
The brilliant melody of the Presto proceeded recklessly, even with a certain swagger. But finest of all was the concluding Allegro con brio with its almost Slavic melody, and driving, cumulative rhythms that rushed along as if diabolically driven, pulled up short, then took off again. Horns at times to overpowered the strings, but even this was not too objectionable in the vivid context of this music.
The Overture to "The Creatures of Prometheus," Beethoven's one foray into the world of ballet, provided a lively opening, its scurrying dance rhythms rippling precisely through the strings.
Silverstein presented roses to Bonnie Bennett, violinist and sometimes pianist with the Symphony, who is retiring after 33 years of service to the orchestra.