The Utah Symphony will perform a concert of varied works at the Foellinger Great Hall of Urbana’s Krannert Center on April 27. This is an orchestra from a seemingly small market that has earned a world-class pedigree through a legacy of fine recordings and superb playing. Current Music Director, Thierry Fischer, is touring his superb ensemble with concert offerings from Haydn, Prokofiev, Bartok, Mahler and a new work commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the orchestra.
Established in 1940, the Utah Symphony was a recreation of earlier attempts to found a world-class symphony in the mid-mountain area. It evolved slowly from remnants of previous Salt Lake City ensembles until 1947. In that year, they hired Maurice Abravanel as Music Director. He would serve in this position until 1979 and put the Utah Symphony on the map as an “A-list" orchestra. Abravanel and his orchestra would produce over 100 recordings for Vanguard and Vox records that ranged from traditional repertoire like Tchaikovsky and Sibelius to modern masters
like Eric Satie and Edward Varese.
The Utah Symphony under Abravanel became the first American orchestra to record all of the Mahler Symphonies with a cycle that won critical praise and honors from The Bruckner Society of America and the International Gustav Mahler Society. (Before any music lover calls me on this, note that Leonard Bernstein’s complete Mahler cycle featured an 8th symphony with the London Symphony and not the New York Philharmonic). Sprinkled in were recordings of modern American composers, Berlioz, Korngold and Vaughn Williams. He lived to receive the National Medal of Arts from President Bush in 1991 and in the year of his death, 1993, the symphony hall in Salt Lake City was named Abravanel Hall.
Few single personalities have left such an impression on a symphony orchestra as Abravanel and his legacy on this great ensemble as it exists today. The Utah Symphony flourished in an area hardly renowned for its love of concert music. He provided for radio broadcasts in his very first year as Music Director and NBC selected The Utah Symphony for its “Orchestras of the Nation” series almost at once. Reaching out to rural communities and educational institutions, Abravanel established a tradition the Utah Symphony continues. Playing all around the state, including its famed national parks, would give the Utah a distinction it enjoys to this day—the highest per-capita attendance at symphony concerts of any state.
Since 2009, Swiss national Thierry Fischer has been Music Director of the Utah Symphony and will conduct the April 27 concert. He continues the tradition of Maestro Abravanel of championing American composers and recording the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. He is on track for a second Mahler cycle and his April 27 concert includes a new American work written for the 75th anniversary of the Utah Symphony, Andrew Norman’s Switch. Great Hall patrons will also get to hear Haydn’s Symphony #96, excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet
and Bartok’s suite from the Miraculous Mandarin.
Wednesday, April 27th's performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in Krannert Center's Foellinger Great Hall. Tickets to the two-hour concert begin at $55 with discounts available for seniors, students, and youth, or purchase a choral balcony seat for only $15. Purchases can be made online, in person at the ticket office, or by calling 217-333-6280.