[email protected], Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Sunday

Morris Rosenzweig has written quite a large body of chamber music for a wide array of instrumental combinations. And now he can add the cimbalom to his list.

His "Just One Step Beyond," for viola and cimbalom, was on the program at the University of Utah's [email protected] concert this past weekend played by Utah Symphony associate principal viola Roberta Zalkind and cimbalom player Igor Iachimciuc.

Originally for viola and piano, the version of "Just One Step Beyond" heard Sunday is actually a reworking of the piano part Rosenzweig did for Iachimciuc. And while the cimbalom has a very distinct timbre, this rather interesting combination of two disparate instruments worked remarkably well. Rosenzweig managed to integrate the cimbalom's sound with that of the viola, and the result is a wonderfully textured piece of music.

"Just One Step Beyond" was written to commemorate the death of one of Rosenzweig's musician friends. It's poignant and at times somewhat wistful but never sad. Zalkind and Iachimciuc captured the character and flavor of the work forcefully in their reading. The piece is touchingly poetic, and the duo brought that out with their lyrical playing.

Pianist Heather Conner followed with a wonderfully expressive reading of Chopin's Barcarolle in F sharp major, op. 60. Conner, who teaches at the U., exhibited remarkable pianism and brought subtlety to her interpretation. It's gratifying hearing Chopin played in this manner — there was no grandstanding; instead, Conner let the music speak for itself.

In fact, Conner's interpretation was rather understated, which was refreshing to hear. It was sonorous yet very nuanced in dynamics and tempos, and Conner displayed a remarkably fine sense of rubato as well. Hearing Chopin played so intelligently makes one hope that Conner will present an all-Chopin recital in Libby Gardner in the not too distant future.

The major work on Sunday's program was Dvorak's Quintet in G major, op. 77. Zalkind returned onstage, along with symphony colleagues Gerald Elias and Barbara Scowcroft, violins; John Eckstein, cello; and David Yavornitzky, contrabass.

These five players gave a dynamic reading of this piece that was dramatic, rhythmically vibrant and wonderfully expressive. Particularly pleasing was their reading of the slow movement. Their playing in this movement was radiant, especially that of Elias, who captured the exquisite beauty of the music with luminous eloquence.


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