UTAH SYMPHONY, SHAI WOSNER, Friday, Abravanel Hall; additional performance today, 8 p.m. (355-2787)
Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto is one of the most famous works for piano and orchestra ever written. It's right up there with the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concertos, yet it's not played as often as one would expect. But in this case, that's a positive thing, since its lack of performances keeps it fresh (unlike the Tchaikovsky, which is heard all too often in concerts).
The Grieg is on this weekend's Utah Symphony program with pianist Shai Wosner, who's making his local debut.
The concerto has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its appealing melodicism. At Friday's concert, Wosner and guest conductor Stefan Sanderling brought out the lyricism of the score wonderfully. And while they did capture the drama and Nordic seriousness in the outer movements, their interpretation emphasized the expressiveness of the music.
It was refreshing not hearing this work overplayed, which is an all too frequent occurrence. Instead, Wosner and Sanderling gave a rather understated reading that was nevertheless well-dimensioned and delightfully vibrant and dynamic.
The young pianist had ample opportunity to put his technical acumen on display. And he showed himself to be a fine technician who brought fire to the virtuosic passages. But he also gave his expressive side free rein as well not only in the poetically played second movement but also in the first and last movements.
Sanderling matched Wosner in his keen sensitivity to the music and in eliciting wonderfully lyrical playing from the orchestra. It was one of the better collaborations between conductor and soloist in Abravanel Hall in quite some time.
Wosner made a huge impact on the audience Friday, whom he rewarded for their adulation by playing an encore one of Schubert's charming "Moments Musicaux."
The other major work on the program this weekend is Bela Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. One of his last works, it was premiered by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony about a year before Bartok's death.
Bartok wrote a powerful work that truly puts individual instrumentalists and whole sections into the spotlight. And the Utah Symphony gave a forceful performance that was dynamic and virtuosic and for the most part crisply and precisely articulated and executed. Sanderling captured the intensity of the score, its rugged expressiveness and bold lines with dramatic impact.Opening the concert was Anatol Liadov's brief but evocative "Kikimora."