Leila Josefowicz

UTAH SYMPHONY WITH LEILA JOSEFOWICZ, Abravanel Hall, Friday; additional performance tonight, 8 p.m. (355-2787)

The focus of this weekend's Utah Symphony concert is 20th century American music. On the program are works by John Adams, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

Soloist this weekend is Leila Josefowicz, one of today's brightest violinists. As she exhibited Friday evening, she possesses amazing technical mastery of her instrument, while her musicianship is no less impressive.

Josefowicz has a large repertoire of concertos at her disposal, not only of the standards but also newer works. She, in fact, is a staunch champion of new music.

One of the works she favors is Adams' Violin Concerto. Josefowicz has made this piece her own. She's recorded it recently, and she's performing it with several orchestras this season.

Adams is one of the most performed of minimalist composers, although he doesn't quite rank with the best of them, specifically Phillip Glass, Steve Reich and pioneering minimalist Terry Riley, whose "In C" is a groundbreaking work.

Adams' music, however, sounds good, mainly because he is an expert orchestrator. What his music lacks is substance. Everything is on the surface, unlike the music of Glass or Reich, for example, whose works are emotionally vibrant and rich in content.

To her credit, though, Josefowicz gave a dynamic reading of the concerto, capably supported by the orchestra under the baton of music director Keith Lockhart.

Josefowicz put passion and feeling into her playing and captured the character and mood of each of the three movements wonderfully.

In particular, the second movement was well-played by the soloist. She gave an ethereal reading that was haunting.

The concert opened with another Adams piece, the brief "Short Ride in a Fast Machine," which the orchestra played admirably.

The second half featured two suites culled from film scores, both of which were played forcefully by the orchestra. Especially the brass and percussion sections are to be commended for their bravura performances Friday evening.

Copland's suite from "The Red Pony" opened this half of the program. The John Steinbeck novella on which the movie is based revolves around a family of California ranchers, and Copland wrote some of his finest cowboy music for the score.

The final work was Bernstein's suite from the score he composed for "On the Waterfront."

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com