Russian composers bring themes of Paganini, Halloween to Utah Symphony concert

Russian composers bring themes of Paganini, Halloween to Utah Symphony concert

OGDEN — The Russians are coming.

The Utah Symphony comes to town this week, presenting an evening of classical works by three Russian composers.

The concert, “Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium at Weber State University. The Masterworks Series concert is being presented locally by Onstage Ogden, an arts organization that brings concerts, dance and more to the Ogden area.

“I think they’re billing it as a tour through Russia with three Russian composers,” said Melissa Klein, executive director of Onstage Ogden.

The program will begin with the Modest Mussorgsky/Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov piece “Night on Bald Mountain.” Many will remember the music from Disney’s 1940 animated film “Fantasia.”

“‘Night on Bald Mountain’ is a traditional Halloween thing — I think that’s why they’re doing that,” Klein said.

Next up it’s the Rachmaninoff piece, “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”

“The Rachmaninoff piece is one of the most beloved melodies of all time,” Klein said. “It’s one of those themes that everyone will recognize.”

The evening will finish off with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, which has been described as a tribute to the noble spirit of humanity during times of war.

Taken together, the pieces will paint a portrait of the diversity of Russian music.

“Three Russians, one performance,” Klein concluded.

Or, as the concert is described on the Utah Symphony website: “Shorter than ‘War and Peace’ and more surprising than a nesting doll, let the Utah Symphony show you the artistic soul of Russia with a concert of undisputed classics.”

Although classical pieces by Russian composers are often thought of as dark and heavy music, Klein said the upcoming concert won’t be anything like that.

“Maybe the preconception is that it’s going to be all heavy music, but that’s not going to be the case,” Klein said. “I think ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ is a perennial favorite. And the Prokofiev work is also a bit of a lighter mood. It’s not going to be all very heavy music, even though they’re all Russian composers.”

Conductor for the evening will be the Uzbekistan-born Aziz Shokhakimov, who burst on the scene at the age of 21 and has since performed with many of the world’s top symphonies.

The featured pianist will be Lukas Vondracek. Born in the Czech Republic, Vondracek — the son of two professional pianists — gave his first concert at the age of 4. He, too, has performed with many of the best orchestras in the world.

Thursday’s concert is open to ages 8 and older. A Masterworks Music Detective program, presented before the concert, will offer a snack and brief presentation about the concert for ages 8 to 12. Admission is $10, for the entire season.

For adults, a pre-concert lecture will begin at 6:45 p.m.

“That’s a packed class, and it’s free,” Klein said.

After Thursday’s concert, the Rachmaninoff fun isn’t over. On Nov. 7, Onstage Ogden will bring the Utah Symphony’s “Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3” concert to town.

“That’s two Rachmaninoffs in a row,” Klein said. “It’s a lot of Rachmaninoff. Which is good.”

Klein said she’s especially looking forward to the Nov. 7 concert because it will feature guest pianist Boris Giltburg as a soloist.

“He was here two years ago playing Shostakovich, and he is phenomenal,” Klein said. “They say he’s one of the geniuses of our time. We’re super excited about Boris coming.”

For more information on Onstage Ogden concerts, visit or call 801-399-9214.

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