When the London Philharmonic Orchestra canceled its big-ticket, high-prestige concert date at the Mesa Arts Center five months ago, it left a major tent pole missing from the MAC’s inaugural performing arts season. Organizers scrambled for a suitable symphonic replacement.
The MAC folks turned to our neighbors to the north.
The Salt Lake City-based Utah Symphony Orchestra, esteemed conductor Keith Lockhart presiding, was happy to bring a program of Russian music: Rodion Shchedrin’s “Naughty Limericks” concerto, a Shostakovich concerto in A minor (featuring 15-year-old guest violin soloist Eugene Ugorski), culminating in Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”).
Approaching the Saturday night appearance by the Utah Symphony, we spoke to Lockhart — who, at 46, has been conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra for 11 years and with the Utah Symphony for eight.
Q: You were approached to fill in, sort of last-minute, for the London Phil.
A: Yes. We were very, of course, thrilled. The inaugural year for a hall is a very big deal, and we were very glad that we were able to accommodate the request. It’s exciting to be in that company.
Q: You’re bringing a darker program of music.
A: The “Pathetique” is one of the great classics of the largescale symphonic repertoire — so much power, so much passion, and frankly more skill than the more popular 4th and 5th symphonies. It’s an almost embarrassingly close look at someone. It’s almost like reading a suicide note on a dresser. It supposedly premiered 10 days before (Tchaikovsky) took his own life. Both it and the Shostakovich come from a wounded place. But the “Naughty Limericks” is just hysterical. It’s kind of a sardonic spoof thing.
Q: Can you explain the differences between your Boston Pops gig and the work in Utah?
A: They’re very different organizations. I call Utah “my Beethoven and Mahler gig.” The Boston Pops does lighter material, more crossover. With Boston, I didn’t want to be cubbyholed as a pops personality. Utah is a fairly conservative programming market.
Q: It’s also a very Mormon market. As is Mesa.
A: The Utah Symphony is not an LDS (Latter-day Saints) organization, but that looms large in Salt Lake (City). It’s a nice entry card for us.
Q: The eternal nagging question: How do you bring new audiences into classical music?
A: The key was and remains exposure. The reason we have this much-decried droppingoff of audience is the denigration of the public schools’ music programs. The point of music education is not to create more musicians. We already have too many of those. The point is to create enthusiastic consumers. It’s like, I like to watch baseball because I’ve played the game. The best way to be enthusiastic is to have done it yourself.
Utah Symphony Orchestra With Keith Lockhart
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St.
How much: $25-$90
Information: (480) 644-6500 or www.mesaartscenter.com