Wednesday's concert by the Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra was a melange of musical styles and composers, blended with a wide range of orchestral textures.
Three pieces for strings were sandwiched between two works for orchestra, offering a nice contrast. While it defies conventional wisdom to program a concert in this manner, it worked remarkably well. Thanks to some outstanding playing by the members of the Utah Symphony and to guest conductor Douglas Boyd's intelligent and lucid direction, this was without question one of the better concerts in the Deer Valley Music Festival's five-year existence.
The three string pieces on the program were Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" and Edward Elgar's Introduction and Allegro, op. 47.
These works displayed the wonderful talents and musicality of the string section. The musicians played gloriously and Boyd elicited an exquisitely nuanced and well-articulated reading of each piece.
Barber's piece, originally from his string quartet and later rearranged for full string orchestra, is an emotionally charged and powerful work that revels in luxurious sonorities. And Boyd gave the players free rein to deliver a wonderfully organic reading.
The Vaughan Williams piece is no less potent and compelling, and once again Boyd coaxed an extremely richly textured reading that was quite romantic and infused with expressive lyricism.
Elgar's work was the antidote to the preceding two. Much more dramatic and robust, Boyd and the strings captured the music's character with boldness and vibrancy.
Gioacchino Rossini's overture to "La Scala di Seta," played brightly and wittily, opened the concert, and Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 1, "Classical," closed out the program.
Boyd's quick tempos and dynamic and exuberant direction captured the effusive sparkle of the music wonderfully. An homage to the classical era, and to Joseph Haydn specifically, the work exudes a lighthearted air couched in sophisticated orchestral writing and pungent harmonies. And Boyd knew exactly what to do with it. His reading was vibrant and carefree and the orchestra played it luminously.