UTAH SYMPHONY, conductor Larry Rachleff, pianist Robert Levin, Friday, Abravanel Hall, additional performance today, 8 p.m. (355-2787)
Sergei Prokofiev's symphonic ouevre has always been overshadowed by that of his younger countryman, Dmitri Shostakovich. While Shostakovich is rightly touted as the leading Soviet symphonist, Prokofiev's symphonies are no less remarkable. He brings some of his most profound and bold thoughts to his symphonic works. They are 20th century gems that deserve to be as well-known as Shotakovich's.
This weekend, Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony is on the Utah Symphony's program. And under guest conductor Larry Rachleff, the work receives a masterful treatment.
Written in 1944, the Fifth is Prokofiev's emotional outlet for the horrors of World War II. The work is driven with rhythmic impulses; there is an urgency and restless vitality to it that never quite resolve until the closing movement.
Rachleff captured all this forcefully at Friday's concert. His interpretation was charged with power and passion that never waned. His reading was compelling, yet he also managed to bring out the lyricism that lies hidden beneath the boldness of the themes. What was especially remarkable, Rachleff conducted the work from memory, without the benefit of a score.
The orchestra played marvelously. The musicians were at the top of their game Friday, and their rapport with Rachleff was obvious. It was a fabulous collaboration between orchestra and conductor.
This weekend's soloist is pianist Robert Levin, who gave a stunning performance of Ludwig van Beethoven's First Piano Concerto. Levin's interpretation was notable for its clear lines, crisp phrasings and precision. It was a very classical approach to a work that clearly foreshadows Beethoven's burgeoning romanticism. But in Levin's hands there was a fine balance between the two.
And this was mirrored in Rachleff's conducting as well he had the orchestra play with wonderful articulation and execution.
The outer movements were fiercely energetic, particularly the opening of the finale, which Levin dove headlong into without a break from the Largo.
And in the Largo, Levin displayed his expressive side, giving a gorgeously eloquent reading that bordered on the poetic.
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