I almost missed this amazing performance. There I was at Abravanel Hall with my husband Saturday night handing my ticket to the ticket taker.
The guest conductor was Mark Wigglesworth from England. His name suited him well. He was extremely active in his conducting. The overture was Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg by Richard Wagner. I was trying to figure out what time it was in, 4-4 I presumed, but one wouldn't know it by his conducting. I couldn't find the beat. The conductor was all over the place with his baton. I am not saying this as a bad thing. The orchestra followed him well even when the baton went in a straight line across the orchestra for several measures. It was actually quite beautiful.
The solo pianist for the evening was another Brit, Steven Hough, who played the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor. At first, he appeared extremely taut, but within seconds, I stopped paying attention to his stiff posture and fell into the music. The power in which he played this piece was amazing. The performance was so quick and strong that I couldn't even process all that was going on. The conductor, who before intermission, was the star, dancing about the podium, now took a back seat. The orchestra kept the pace and power of their soloist.
The energy in the room was astounding, and when the performance was over, the audience jumped to their feet and exploded in applause. The man behind me yelled, "Holy @#$*, that @$* Rachmaninoff was a mean one!" Although I wouldn't have said it myself, he hit the nail on the head. Who said symphony attendees are always proper?
After multiple curtain calls, Hough sat at the piano to play an encore. He treated us with a popular Chopin nocturne played with peaceful emotion. It was in direct contrast to the passion and drive of the Rachmaninoff. It was a perfect ending to the evening. Too bad for the rude people who didn't even bother to clap and who left immediately after the performance was over. They missed another beautiful performance by Hough. (If you want to read my comments about the way people dress at a symphony performance click here.)
You can tell a fantastic performance by how much the audience talks about it afterward. They spoke his blurry hands, power, and wow factor all the way out the building, to the TRAX and to the new City Creek Center. Usually people don't make it out the building still talking about the performance.
On a cool side note, Stephen Hough has a blog with the Telegraph. On his latest post, regarding the Kindle, he mentions in the comment section that he visited the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City to look up his grandfather. Don't you love it when visitors mention great things about the place you live? Another reason to like Stephen Hough!