"I've never heard it played better!" I heard a concertgoer exclaim following Karlyn Bond's performance of the Liszt E flat major Piano Concerto on Wednesday night's "Salute to Youth."
And it was good, communicating a lyricism and fire remarkable in a young woman of 22 - a sharp contrast to the Alice-in-Wonderland image she projected at the keyboard a decade ago, when she last performed on this Utah Symphony-Deseret News concert. If occasionally the brio seemed to get a bit out of hand, at least there was a sparkle, and a spark, to her playing that would not have been amiss elsewhere on the program.That's not to say there wasn't some fine playing there as well. Take 24-year-old Bret Jackson's performance of the last two movements of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto, a thoroughly professional account notable for its Marsalis-like control and capped by an immaculate cadenza.
In this he was admirably supported by Joseph Silverstein and the orchestra, generally a potent combination in Haydn anyway. But afterwards the conductor was heard to say that in his experience this orchestra seems to give a little more of itself in this concert, something "not always true of other orchestras." Maybe that's because a good many of them came up this way themselves.
In fact the last time the first movement of the Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2 figured on a "Salute to Youth" concert, in 1978, the soloist was someone who is now a member of the Utah Symphony. This time it was 13-year-old Rosalie Lund, who may not have realized to the full the piece's tonal splendor but at least tried to make a statement, however modest.
By contrast flutist David Cardon, 24, often made the Reinecke Flute Concerto seem a better piece than it is, despite a few glossed-over passages. I didn't hear any of that in 24-year-old Christian B. Smith's account of the opening Allegro of the Weber Bassoon Concerto, a bit effortful in spots but successful in capturing its understated pomp. What lifted this performance, though, was the robust accompaniment.
Paired with the Weber we had the same composer's "Leise, leise" from "Der Freischuetz." This was idiomatically projected (especially the opening recitative) by mezzo Hilary Dalton, 24, who even in the high-lying passages seldom sounded forced or strained.
Then 22-year-old Bryce Mecham came onstage for a generally mellow but flavorful rendition of Swedish composer Lars-Erik Larsson's Concertino for Trombone and Strings. To my ears both he and Silverstein played up the music's romanticism, in a warmly contoured reading that came to terms handsomely with the wit and elegance of the finale.
What it did not do was generate much electricity or sense of daring, partly because the trombonist elected to play it safe, with the music in front of him (everyone else played from memory). And although Adriana Jarvis' account of the opening movement of the MacDowell Second Piano Concerto may not have been as pristine, she at least kept the adrenaline flowing in a concerto I have heard defeat pianists three times her age.
Which is to say I have heard it played better, but not by someone who just turned 13. And that's not a bad beginning for any young artist.