The third concert in the Utah Symphony's Chamber Series will showcase concertmaster Ralph Matson in a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4. The performance will be conducted by acting associate conductor Bruce Hangen on Thursday, March 5, at Abravanel Hall. The program also includes Stravinsky's Octet and Symphony No. 5 by Schubert.
Performances on the Chamber Series feature works that are orchestrated in a more intimate style than the music that typifies the orchestra's Masterworks concerts. Ralph Matson, soloist for Mozart's Fourth Violin Concerto, has enjoyed performing in the Chamber Series."It's a nice contrast to a lot of what we do. It's very good, especially for string players, to deal with the clarity of sound and articulation required by chamber music," he said. "The series gives us a chance to work in a smaller ensemble and to hone that sound."
Matson joined the Utah Symphony as concertmaster in 1985. He holds a master's degree from the Yale School of Music and enjoyed tenures with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Minnesota Orchestra, where he served as assistant concertmaster.
It was the opportunity to be concertmaster that brought Matson to Utah. (The concertmaster is the principle violinist, and is entrusted with orchestral solo passages. The position is also one of political leadership within the orchestra.)
Matson has enjoyed the challenge of occasions like this one, in which he is the featured solo performer. "Being here in Utah has given me a chance to be a soloist, and has given me the opportunity to grow as a player. Of course all of us practice, play recitals, and do chamber music to improve ourselves - but there is no substitution for soloing."
Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 is for Matson "an old friend, and close to my heart. I first heard this piece at the age of 9 or 10, and I remember being absolutely blown away. I thought it was the most extraordinary thing I'd ever heard."
Though the popular conception of Mozart tends to dwell upon the prodigious feats of his youth, Matson says, "For me, it is Mozart the adult musician who achieves such an amazing depth of expression." Mozart's violin concertos (written when he was 19) are in Matson's opinion among the first pieces in which the genius of the composer's mature style is revealed.
The concert will be conducted by Hangen, who is still fairly new to Utah audiences since his engagement as acting associate conductor. According to Matson, "the orchestra has really enjoyed working with him. He is an exceptionally nice person, and has done a wonderful job for us in a variety of roles."
The other selections on the concert should form a pleasing contrast to the Mozart concerto. Schubert's Symphony No. 5 is Mozartian in scale, but Romantic in temperament. Coincidentally, Schubert was also 19 when he composed this work. Stravinsky's Octet was composed in 1923 and revised in 1952. The modern work is scored for a unique combination of instruments: flute, clarinet, two bassoons, two trumpets and two trombones.
The Utah Symphony Chamber Series Concert featuring Ralph Matson begins at 8 p.m. in Abravanel Hall on Thursday, March 5. Tickets are priced from $12 to $27 and can be obtained by calling 801-355-6683 or by visiting the Utah Symphony box office at 123 W. South Temple. The Chamber Series is sponsored by Zion's Bank.
The concert will also be performed for Ogden audiences on Friday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ogden Egyptian Theater. For tickets, call 801-399-9214.