Utah Symphony
New York-based cellist Julie Albers

Next weekend's Utah Symphony concerts spotlight the music of Igor Stravinsky and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, two of Russia's most renowned and distinctive composers.

Stravinsky's complete score to the ballet "The Rite of Spring" will share the program with two of Tchaikovsky's lesser-played works, a welcome relief from the composer's symphonies, and piano and violin concertos, which have become the Utah Symphony's signature works during Keith Lockhart's tenure as music director.

In a change of pace, Lockhart, who will conduct this weekend, has programmed two works that look to the past for their inspiration — the Suite No. 4 in G major ("Mozartiana"), Tchaikovsky's tribute to the music of the great Austrian composer, and the Variations on a Rococo Theme, for cello and orchestra.

Soloist for the Variations is the young American cellist Julie Albers, who is making her Utah Symphony debut at these concerts. Albers said by phone from her New York home that she is always delighted when asked to perform this piece. "It's so much fun to play."

She has been playing the Variations since she was 14, and said it's easily her most requested work. "It's so genuine. It's not hard to make it work." She especially delights in playing the sixth variation. "That's my favorite, because it's just so beautiful."

The 27-year-old cellist has already developed quite a repertoire of concertos, many of which are rarities in today's concert halls. Along with the expected concertos by Antonin Dvorak, Robert Schumann and Edward Elgar are also works that only seldom find their way into programs — concertos by Paul Hindemith, Darius Milhaud, Dmitri Kabalevsky, William Walton and Victor Herbert. "I've done them a lot, because orchestras request them. It's fun to do something different."

While performing with orchestras around the United States and Europe fills up most of her schedule — around 30 concerts a season — Albers also has her hands in a couple of other things as well.

Recently, she and her violin- and viola-playing sisters formed a group, and they've just begun performing together as the Albers String Trio. "This is our first actual season. We'll be doing 15 concerts this season." Since her oldest sister is also a member of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, they're limited to performing during spring and summer, when the opera is finished for the season.

Unlike its more famous counterpart the piano trio, the string-trio medium is fairly unknown. This despite the fact that composers have written quite a large amount of works for a violin-viola-cello configuration. "There is some great music for string trio. Beethoven's string trios are the best known, and Dohnanyi wrote a beautiful trio. But most of the others are unfamiliar."

The three sisters came up with the idea of starting a group somewhat casually. "One Christmas, both sisters came to New York to visit me. One day, we got some music from the library and started playing it together." They enjoyed the experience so much they decided then and there to form an ensemble.

Albers is also a member of a cello quartet called, not surprisingly, CELLO. "I joined them in 2001," she said. It doesn't give too many concerts, she added, mainly because there isn't much demand for it. "It's one of the harder groups for presenters, and so it's hard for us to keep up the steam."

The weekend after Albers plays with the Utah Symphony, CELLO will be appearing with the Syracuse Symphony, premiering a new work written for it by the American composer Andrew Waggoner. "There is only one other cello-quartet concerto that I know of," Albers said, "so we're looking forward to playing Andrew's piece."

If you go . . .

What: Julie Albers, cello; Keith Lockhart, conductor; Utah Symphony

Where: Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple

When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.

How much: $12-$48

Phone: 355-2787 or 888-451-2787

Web: utahsymphonyopera.org

Also: Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Val A. Browning Center, Weber State University, Ogden, $11-$31 (801-399-9214)

E-mail: [email protected]