Pavel Kogan certainly hasn't lost any of his appeal with Utah Symphony audiences. The Russian is back in Abravanel Hall again, and Friday night's reception was no less enthusiastic than in his previous appearances here.
The orchestra, too, seemed to enjoy playing for him. Its playing was well-articulated and executed, with Kogan eliciting a wonderfully nuanced and vibrant performance.
This weekend is also concertmaster Ralph Matson's turn as soloist. His annual solo outings are always a special treat. Matson always brings polish and sophistication to his performances, and he didn't disappoint Friday's adudience he delivered a wonderfully lyrical reading of Louis Spohr's Concerto No. 8 in A minor ("Gesangsszene").
Spohr was himself a virtuoso violinist, as well as a composer of considerable renown in his lifetime, so he comes to the violin quite naturally. But unlike his more famous contemporary, Niccolo Paganini, Spohr never wrote in a purely bravura style. He brought more melodisicm to his concertos, and therein lie their demands for the soloist.
It takes a violinst of considerable musicality and expressiveness to pull off a work such as the A minor Concerto, and Matson was without question more than up to the challenge. He gave a compellingly expressive reading of the work that was filled with subtlety and which was fabulously nuanced. It was enlightening hearing Matson give voice to the luminous lyricism of the work.
Likewise, Kogan didn't disappoint his audience either in the other two works on the program.
The concert opened with Felix Mendelssohn's romantically charged Scottish Symphony in A minor. The maestro coaxed an electrifying reading from the orchestra that was vibrant, dramatic and filled with energy.The closing work, Ottorino Respighi's "Pines of Rome," was no less radiant. Kogan once again elicited an extraordinarily charged performance from the orchestra. Principal clarinetist Tad Calcara and English hornist Holly Gornik deserve special mention for their beautiful solos.