Salt Lake Symphony, Utah Voices celebrate Beethoven

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By Catherine Reese Newton | The Salt Lake Tribune

It was standing room only Saturday in Libby Gardner Concert Hall as the Salt Lake Symphony teamed up with the up-and-coming Davis County-based Utah Voices in celebration of Beethoven.

The evening’s main event was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Though this symphony is best-known for its grand "Ode to Joy" choral finale, most of the heavy lifting comes from the orchestra.

The community-based Salt Lake Symphony played valiantly under its music director, Robert Baldwin. There were a few rough patches, but there were also passages that sounded truly inspired. The volunteer musicians played with determination and joy throughout the symphony’s hour-plus running time. The woodwinds, and the bassoon playing of Ryan Van Liere in particular, were especially impressive.

The approximately 140 singers of Utah Voices clearly put a lot of preparation into this concert. They sang the Schiller text that closes Beethoven’s Ninth in the original German, projecting its inspiring message forcefully. They also demonstrated excellent balance, unwavering focus and contagious conviction, living up to the evening’s billing of "Glorious Beethoven."

The four soloists — soprano Jennifer Larson, mezzo Kirsten Gunlogson, tenor Robert Breault and baritone Steven Meredith — were all solid, though balance among them was sometimes iffy. The jaunty "Turkish" verse, which Breault sang with gusto amid infectious percussion, was a highlight.

Utah Voices’ conductor Michael Huff led orchestra, chorus and soloists in a vigorous performance of the Gloria from Beethoven’s "Missa Solemnis" to open the concert.