The maestro's podium in the Tabernacle on Temple Square might well have been a medals platform Saturday evening, Feb. 16. When conductor Barlow Bradford turned to face the audience at the end of the "Music of the Masters" program in the Cultural Olympiad, it was evident that the Orchestra at Temple Square and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had pulled off a medal-winning performance with an assist from a guest musician, the acclaimed clarinetist Richard Stoltzman.
During the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, audiences have become adept at recognizing outstanding showings by renowned performers and cheering the relative newcomers. The Tabernacle Choir is highly acclaimed among choral groups worldwide. The newcomer stepping into the Cultural Olympiad's music arena was the Orchestra at Temple Square. With its premiere concert in October 1999, less than three years ago, the orchestra isn't seasoned as a long-standing group but it performed as an old pro. Notwithstanding it is comprised of 110 volunteer musicians, 80 of whom performed, there was nothing amateur about their concert.
The program wasn't for beginners. The musical lineup included "Premiere Rhapsodie," by Claude Debussy; "Symphony No. 7 in A Major," by Ludwig van Beethoven; "Concerto in A Major," by W.A. Mozart, and "Polovetsian Dances, from Prince Igor," by Alexander Borodin.
The Tabernacle Choir sang three selections, the opening "Glorious Everlasting," by M. Thomas Cousins; "Amazing Grace," arranged by guest artist Stoltzman, and the work by Borodin, which was sung in Russian.
The rest of the program belonged to the guest artist and to the orchestra, which performed in keeping with the atmosphere of the Games' spotlight on people who push themselves to be at their finest.
The program featured "Music of the Masters" for a reason. "When you invite a soloist like Richard Stoltzman, a world's great instrumentalist, you're dealing with the masters," said conductor Bradford. " 'Mozart's Concerto in A Major' is arguably the finest clarinet concerto ever written; no one knows it better than Richard Stoltzman. That came through in the concert."
If one selection could be called a "show stopper," it was the performance of Mr. Stoltzman's "Amazing Grace," which he described as "a simple arrangment." Had the audience served as judge, the performance would have garnered high marks.
While many in the audience, choir and orchestra expressed admiration for his artistry with the clarinet, he expressed praise for them.
"This is probably the dream of my life to play with the greatest choir on the planet," he said after the concert.
Of the orchestra, he commented, "I would say that when people give this much of themselves to the music, it reaps a lot of dividends, not just for themselves, but for the audiences and I think for the music, too."
Part of the success of the concert, he said, was the audience. "It isn't like a concert. It's more like a celebration, and also a communion. I've never experienced that before. They're very natural, as if they know why they're here, and they're going to enjoy every moment of it."
The Cultural Olympiad on Temple Square continues Saturday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m., with king'singers as guest performers. The six-man a capella group from King's College in Cambridge, England, performs a vast repertoire and has been popular with audiences the world over. All tickets have been distributed. Reserved seating will be released at 7 p.m. for stand-by seating. Those without tickets who would like to attend are encouraged to stand by. Admission is free. Overflow seating will be available in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. Audio and video of the concert will be provided by satellite feed.
An encore performance will be given in conjunction with the Music and the Spoken Word broadcast Sunday, 9:30 a.m. Those with tickets should be seated before 9:15 a.m., at which time empty seats will be released to those in the stand-by line.