This season, the two Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra concerts spotlighted J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Back in January, the orchestra under the direction of assistant conductor David Cho played the odd-numbered works. Thursday, it finished the set with the even-numbered pieces.
As he did at the beginning of the year, Cho showed himself to be an admirable interpreter of baroque music and a fine harpsichord player. He brought a wonderfully fine sense of rhythm to the outer movements of the three concertos that were played, while capturing the lyricism of the slow movements. In fact, Cho brought a refined and polished expressiveness to his interpretations, and the orchestra and soloists responded by playing with eloquence.
The concert featured five soloists from the orchestra: concertmaster Ralph Matson, principal flute Erich Graf, assistant principal flute Lisa Byrnes, principal oboe Robert Stephenson and associate principal trumpet Jeffrey Luke. Their playing was dynamic and radiantly musical.
The evening opened with No. 2 in F major, a work that uses violin, flute, oboe and trumpet as solo instruments.
In this concerto, Bach saves the most virtuosic music for the trumpet. Exploiting the highest register of the instrument, the work requires the player to possess incredible technique to pull it off successfully. And Luke managed to play his part convincingly, although there were a few gaps and missed notes, but nothing to take away from the dazzling effect this music has on the listener.
The other three soloists, while not needing to exert themselves as much as Luke did, played wonderfully. Matson, Graf and Stephenson gave a dynamic performance, and the slow movement, which is scored for the three (minus the trumpet) and continuo, they played with eloquence and feeling.
No. 6 in B flat major followed. This concerto is scored for the unusual combination of violas and cellos with continuo. While it was nicely done, there was some sloppy playing in the second movement and the entire work wasn't played as tightly as it could have been.
The evening ended with No. 4 in G major. Scored for a solo ensemble of violin and two flutes, it is perhaps the best known of the six Brandenburgs.Matson, Graf and Byrnes played gorgeously. They, together with Cho, gave a forcefully energetic and vibrant performance that captured the exuberance of the music wonderfully. It was radiant and the perfect close to a delightful concert.