Italian pianist Andrea Lucchesini will make his first Utah appearance late this week with the Utah Symphony, playing Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor. The program will also showcase a composition by Salt Lake resident Marie Barker Nelson, "Ode to Antigone."

In a telephone interview from his home in Italy, Lucchesini described one of the highlights of his career. "I became acquainted with the composer Luciano Berio, who asked me to perform his piano concerto `Echoing Curves.' At first, the piece was difficult to understand, but it was very rewarding to work closely with the composer, and now I play it all over the world."Lucchesini began his career in Paris after becoming the first Italian prize winner of the Dino Ciani International Piano competition in 1983. He has since won other prestigious prizes and has performed with such orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony and London Philharmonic.

Nelson explained the genesis of "Ode to Antigone": "My sister, Marilyn Barker Johnson, wrote the poem that I used for a `program' for this symphony. The two of us took a cruise to Greece which inspired her to write the poem, and me to write the music."

Speaking by phone from her residence in Salt Lake City, Nelson said she has always had a strong interest in Greek culture and mythology. "Ode to Antigone" is a tone poem composed in a style she describes as "conservatively contemporary and broadly tonal." The play by Sophocles has inspired the emotional structure for the work.

"Ode to Antigone" was premiered in June 1997 at the Utah Arts Festival by the Utah Symphony. It is scheduled to be recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in the near future.

Nelson studied with Paul Hindemith at the Yale School of Music and with Leroy Robertson, Ramiro Cortes, Vladimir Ussachevsky and Bruce Reich at the University of Utah, where she received her master's and doctoral degrees in composition. The Utah Symphony has previously performed two other works by Nelson: "The Medead," in 1977, and "Hodeeyaada," in 1996, and her compositions have also been performed and recorded by artists throughout the world, including the Slovak Radio Symphony, Manhattan Sinfonia and the Seattle Symphony.

In 1997 Nelson "The Rocky Mountains" was premiered at Avery Fisher Hall in New York's Lincoln Center by the New York Chamber Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz. She is working on a symphonic poem titled "Universe 98," which will be premiered by the Czech Radio Symphony, and a symphony for the Warsaw Philharmonic.

Concerts featuring Andrea Lucchesini and the Utah Symphony are Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4 at Abravanel Hall, beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets are priced from $12 to $31 and can be purchased by calling (801) 533-6683 or by visiting the Utah Symphony box office. These concerts are sponsored by the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation for the Arts.