Tonight’s Utah Symphony performance at Weber State University will feature Mozart’s Symphony No. 31 — nicknamed the “Paris” symphony.
In light of recent events, Toby Tolokan finds that choice slightly uncanny.
“We plan these concerts a year-and-a-half, sometimes two years, in advance,” said Tolokan, vice president of symphony artistic planning for the Salt Lake City-based orchestra. “The fact that Notre Dame just burned, and now we’re playing this symphony, is kind of eerie.”
The concert, sponsored by Onstage Ogden, begins at 7:30 p.m. today in the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium on campus. Tolokan, who will present a pre-concert lecture at 6:45 p.m. in Room 113 of the Browning Center, said the “Paris” nickname was given to the symphony long after Mozart wrote it. Still, he says a 22-year-old Mozart certainly saw Notre Dame when he was in Paris in 1778.
It was there in France where Mozart wrote the “Paris” symphony, at an “unbelievable breakneck speed.”
“Mozart goes to Paris to get work, and they say, ‘Write us a symphony,’” Tolokan said. “So he does.”
That sort of work ethic puts to shame many of today’s so-called “superstar” artists, who might write a three-minute song every other year, according to Tolokan.
“But this guy, in a matter of days, was throwing together an entire symphonic work,” he said. “That’s probably why he only lived to 35.”
Also on the evening’s program will be the Schumann Symphony No. 2, and the Rodrigo Concierto de Aranjuez.
Schumann wrote four symphonies; tonight’s concert will feature his Symphony No. 2, according to Tolokan.
“In a lot of ways, this is the most-played of his symphonies,” Tolokan said. “The 2nd Symphony has one of the most incredibly fast movements — it’s often an excerpt piece for string auditions for major orchestras, because it’s that tricky. And then the slow movement is one of the most gorgeous movements in all literature.”
Guest conductor for the evening will be the British conductor/keyboardist Richard Egarr, who earlier this year was named music director of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, in San Francisco. He returns to Utah after his first guest-conducting gig with the Utah Symphony at an outdoor all-Bach evening two years ago in Park City.
Guest soloist for the evening will be the guitarist Pablo Sainz Villegas, who recently collaborated with the famed tenor Placido Domingo. Villegas, hailed as “the soul of the Spanish guitar,” will be featured on the Rodrigo piece. Villegas has played once before with the Utah Symphony, at a Red Butte concert three years ago.
“This Rodrigo concerto is, in a lot of people’s opinion, THE guitar concerto,” Tolokan said. “It’s the most well-known of guitar concertos.”
And Tolokan offers a bit of free advice to those attending tonight’s concert: With a little encouragement, Villegas loves playing solo encores following his performances.
“If the audience works a little hard, I would encourage to get them clapping away,” Tolokan said. “Although, you don’t really have to encourage clapping — since it’s so amazing that it comes naturally.”
Tolokan calls both Villegas and Egarr, who will be making their Ogden debuts, “extremely gifted … incredibly charismatic filled with boundless energy.”
The concert will be a rare opportunity to hear a guitar soloist with the Utah Symphony on a classical program, according to Tolokan. In a full symphonic season, eight or nine concerts would feature piano soloists, another five or six would be violinists, and then a cellist or two.
“Not even every year would you — hopefully, eventually — have a guitarist,” he said.