Kurt Bestor is tough to categorize. His music is primarily placed in the "easy listening" or "adult contemporary" sections - most people don't think of him as a heavy, "serious" classical composer. But conducting the Utah Symphony and Utah Symphony Chorus Friday, Bestor showed he is rather more complicated than most people think.After performing various shorter numbers and sections of film scores he has written, at the end of the regular program the Provo-based composer led the orchestra and chorus in his extended five-movement piece "Timpanogos - A Prayer for Mountain Grace." It turned out to be a complex, meaty, musically satisfying piece brilliantly conceived and impeccably performed.
What exactly is one to think of lyrics (written by author Terry Tempest Williams) such as "The wind creates/a prayer of mountain grace," and "Elemental faith/chaos to create/gaia/rock/fault" and similarly abstruse accompaniment?
We ain't talking Yanni here. Bestor is for real.
More than any other piece performed at the concert, "Timpanogos" fulfilled Bestor's oft-stated desire to create "visual sound." The piece practically begs the audience to take their minds out of their humdrum, everyday existences and climb into the mountains to wander around there. One could easily forget one was sitting in a chair listening to a particular piece of music, so complete was the world it created.
While "Timpanogos" was the concert's high point, most of the other pieces were excellent as well. "Three Tools," about the building of European cathedrals, really did sound like European cathedrals under construction. "Sage of Lamberene" was replete with odd, interesting sounds that somehow were unified into an integral whole. "The Curse," with guest tenor singer James Conlee, was moving and affecting.
Bestor called the experience of conducting the orchestra "a dream come true for me," but he displayed none of the nervousness one might associate with such an experience. He was a casual, self-confident presence on-stage, knowing when to joke around and when to get serious.
For example, before one number Bestor couldn't find his baton. After searching around the podium and finally locating it on the grand piano, he turned around and solemnly presented the baton to the audience, to much laughter and applause.
"Keith Lockhart won't do that," he commented.
The encore, Bestor's well-known song "Prayer of the Children," provided a fitting ending.