Adkins solos in a Utah Symphony night of Prokofiev and Strauss

Sat Feb 03, 2024 at 11:53 am
Madeline Adkins performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Utah Symphony Friday night at Abravanel Hall.

Utah Symphony concertmaster Madeline Adkins has been a stellar presence in Abravanel Hall since joining the orchestra in 2016, whether in the big moments of Danse macabre or Ein Heldenleben or in her annual concerto appearances. Salt Lake City music lovers get to hear her in the latter role this weekend as she brings her customary excellence to Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

The piece is hardly your run-of-the-mill concerto, with a fast movement sandwiched between two slow ones and with Prokofiev’s sardonic wit on full display. Adkins gave an acerbic edge to the long, lyrical lines of the outer movements. Her natural rapport with her colleagues in the orchestra, combined with Abravanel Hall regular Jun Märkl’s elastic tempos and dynamics, resulted in a pleasing sense of give-and-take. Harpist Louise Vickerman and the orchestra strings created a glittering backdrop to close both movements.

Prokofiev packs a prodigious number of notes into the concerto’s relatively brief 22 minutes—with most of them seemingly coming in the 4-minute virtuoso burst in the middle. Adkins didn’t appear to miss a single one, as she tackled the technical demands with clarity and verve.

Jun Märkl conducted the Utah Symphony Friday night.

The evening began and ended with tone poems by Richard Strauss. First up was the early and less well-known Macbeth, given a muscular and appropriately foreboding reading by Märkl and the orchestra.

Märkl conducted the concluding crowd-pleaser Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks from memory, giving the performance a feeling of freedom and fun. Colorful solo moments throughout the orchestra abound in this work; E-flat clarinetist Erin Svoboda-Scott and violinist Kathryn Eberle were Friday’s standouts.

Dvořák’s relatively obscure concert overture In Nature’s Realm rounded out the evening. Predictably pastoral, it was a pleasant if not especially memorable addition to the program. The Utah Symphony gave it a painterly outing.

These concerts are the second of three programs that the orchestra has dubbed “Masterworks Magnified” this season. The multimedia enhancements and onstage chatter have been toned down since the concept’s Halloween debut. The screen above the stage showed lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and artistic depictions of Till Eulenspiegel while the orchestra played the respective Strauss tone poems—a much more logical fit than the superfluous light show we saw last fall.

Likewise, rather than hold up the start of each half with onstage chatter, education director Ben Kipp made his introductory remarks and chatted with principal trumpeter Travis Peterson during the natural pause while the stage was reset in the middle of each half. It was a big step toward achieving the presumable goal of luring new patrons while not irritating longtime concertgoers.

The program will be repeated 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

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