The Salt Lake Symphony kicks off its 33rd season Saturday picking up where it left off at the end of last season bringing its audience works that are staples of the repertoire not often done by community orchestras.
"The orchestra has come of age," music director Robert Baldwin said in an interview with the Deseret News. "Last year we pushed the envelope, and they did extremely well. This year we're taking it further, and we're excited about the season."
Among the works scheduled to be played this season are Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2 and Brahms' Symphony No. 4. "These are major works for any orchestra, but especially for a community orchestra. But the musicians enjoy pushing themselves and they enjoy playing a challenging level of repertoire. They're up to it, and we're showing what a community orchestra is capable of. And we haven't scared (any members of the orchestra) away yet."
Every year the Salt Lake Symphony programs a concert called "Utah Voices" featuring area soloists and/or composers. This year, the "Utah Voices" concert opens the season with two local connections composer Crawford Gates and soprano Erin Morley.
"The piece I picked to open the concert with, the 'Ballad of the Prairie State,' was actually something Crawford had written for the bicentennial for Illinois. It's a great piece and I think it will work very well on the concert."
Morley is a Utah native who now makes her home in New York. She was part of the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Program, and she has sung several roles with the company. On Saturday she'll be singing Mozart's "Exsultate Jubilate." "Erin has a beautiful voice," Baldwin said. "The Met program really takes care of their singers and develops them."
Rounding out the concert will be Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony ("Little Russian"). "The first three of his symphonies aren't done as often as the Fourth, Fifth or Sixth, because they're not as mature. But the early ones have a youthful energy you don't find in the other three, and Tchaikovsky's command of the orchestra at this point in his life is really quite impressive."
There will be one more Utah connection at this concert. Baldwin said the performance will be dedicated to Mike Scoggins, who was a member of the violin section and who passed away this summer. "He was an incredible violinist and he had a wonderful violin shop. This is a great loss to the community."
The second concert of the season, on Nov. 8, features the youth division winner of last year's Stradivarius International Violin Competition, 13-year-old Mindy Chen. She'll be playing Paganini's popular and fiendishly difficult Violin Concerto No. 1. "We thought it would be nice if we brought back one of the winners of that competition," Baldwin said. "It's important for the community. And I think it's just great that we have another international competition in Salt Lake City (besides the Bachauer piano competition)."
Baldwin said Chen's playing is astonishing. "She has an underlying maturity you don't find very often among kids her age. I wouldn't be surprised to see her return to Salt Lake City soloing with the Utah Symphony. Her level of talent is that good."
Brahms' Fourth Symphony and Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin" will be on the program for the March 21, 2009, concert. "They work well together, since both look back to the past for inspiration," Baldwin said. And both are among the musicians' favorites. "They appear more often on their 'want to play' list than any other works."
Kory Katseanes will guest conduct the concert on April 25, 2009, which will feature the 2006 Bachauer gold medalist Stephen Beus in Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor. "April is a log jam for me, because of the opera at (the University of Utah)," Baldwin said. "So we like to bring in a guest conductor, especially someone as talented as Ko
The final concert takes place May 16, 2009, and focuses on opera."We don't have the program or soloists set, but there will be some orchestral highlights from the 'Ring' cycle, and arias from popular operas."
The season also includes the traditional holiday concert, on s annual Vienna Ball Fundraiser. "That's become one of our most popular events. People love it because it's once of the few places where you can go and dance ballroom."
Below is a rundown of the concert schedule. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. and take place in Libby Gardner Concert Hall, except where noted.
Saturday: Gates, "Ballad of the Prairie State;" Mozart, "Exsultate Jubilate;" Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 2; with soprano Erin Morley.
Nov. 8: Rossini, Overture to "The Italian Girl in Algiers;" Paganini, Violin Concerto No. 1; Barber, "Music for a Scene from Shelley;" Sibelius, "En Saga;" with violinist Mindy Chen.
Dec. 11: Christmas Concert.
Dec. 20: Vaughan Williams, "Hodie;" with the Salt Lake Choral Artists.
Jan. 17, 2009, 2 p.m.: Family Concert/Side by Side; with narrator Roland Steadham.
Feb. 14, 2009, 8 p.m.: University of Utah Olpin Ballroom: Vienna Ball Gala Fundraiser.
March 21, 2009: Ravel, "Le Tombeau de Couperin;" Brahms, Symphony No. 4.
April 25, 2009: Alfven, "Midsommarvaka;" Mendelssohn, Piano Concerto No. 1; Grieg, Symphonic Dances, op. 64; with pianist Stephen Beus and guest conductor Kory Katseanes.
May, 16, 2009: Selections from grand and light opera, TBA.
July 3, 2009: 7 p.m., Granite High School; "Patriotic Concert."
If you go
What: Erin Morley, soprano, Robert Baldwin, conductor, Salt Lake Symphony
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $10 general admission, $5 senior citizens and students (season pass $50 general admission, $25 senior citizens and students)