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Debra Gheris
String section is seen performing with Orchestra at Temple Square during fall concert on Oct. 27, 2017.

Crisp autumn evenings and tasty treats often go together, and the Orchestra at Temple Square on Friday, Oct. 27, served up generous portions of Mozart and Sibelius.

Conducted by Igor Gruppman, the orchestra staged its annual fall concert before a capacity audience in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square, beginning with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 23 in A Major, showcasing the talent of young Russian virtuoso Arsentiy Kharitonov.

The program was repeated in the tabernacle on Saturday night.

“He started playing piano when he was 16, so he’s a late bloomer,” Gruppman told the audience regarding Kharitonov. “But I find that somehow this fact adds another dimension to his artistry, to his understanding of the role of the instrument in making music.”

He complimented the pianist on his humility and deep artistry, “the ability to bring the language of the composer truly to life.”

Gruppman made sure the audience knew that Kharitonov is also a composer and that a cadenza (an improvised solo) that Kharitonov played during the piece was his own creation.

The Mozart concerto, Gruppman said at the outset of the performance, is an especially intimate piece.

“He discards, he doesn’t use the usual instrumentation that he used in his symphonic works. You will not hear a trumpet. You will not hear an oboe. The work is very, very intimate; it’s like chamber music.”

Introducing the second half of the concert, Symphony no. 2 in D Major by Jean Siblius, Gruppman said it is “one of those works that touch your heart very deeply.”

“I read a study just recently that there were pieces of music identified that change people’s perception of classical music. People were asked, ‘What was the piece of music that made you really love orchestra, classical music?’ Sibelius’ second symphony is one of the five. There is, of course, Beethoven 5, there is Tchaikovsky 4, Sibelius 2, and a couple more.

“These are pillars of our musical culture.”

Sibelius himself said that Symphony no. 2 is the expression of his soul, Gruppman told the audience.

Sibelius, whose homeland was Finland and who composed the famous piece “Finlandia,” is known for creating works that evoke nationalism and independence.

“Yes, absolutely,” Gruppman said regarding the composer’s reputation. “But let me add for you another dimension. It is not just about fighting for freedom. When such genius composers put their inspiration forward and put it on paper, it’s much more than just that.”

He quoted these words from Sibelius himself regarding Symphony no. 2: “It is as if the Almighty God had thrown down pieces of mosaic from heaven’s floor and asked me to put them together.”

Sibelius’ artistry is the testimony of a man who was trying to break free from his manhood and reach for exaltation, Gruppman said. “And this Symphony no. 2 is a perfect example of that. You hear moments of darkness. You hear moments of real despair, doubt, and then a glorious finale. It’s a wonderful testimony of vision, of real happiness and real exultation. I know you will feel that together with us as we perform this.”

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