'Opening heavens' through music

Showcasing two of its own members as solo instrumentalists, the Orchestra at Temple Square opened its 2004-2005 season with a stirring assortment of masterworks from Sibelius, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky and featured the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The Autumn Concert was presented in the Salt Lake Tabernacle with Igor Gruppman conducting and was rewarded at the end with two minutes and 45 seconds of boisterous applause.

Introducing the opening selection, the beloved Finnish patriotic anthem "Finlandia," composed in 1899, maestro Gruppman recounted that Jean Sibelius composed it originally for orchestra only and that it very quickly caught the hearts and minds of the Finnish people in their struggle for freedom. In 1939, Finnish words were written for it, and there have been various arrangements for choir and orchestra culminating with Sibelius' own arrangement in 1948.

The melody is well-known to Latter-day Saints as a setting for the hymn "Be Still My Soul" (Hymns, No. 124). The choir joined the orchestra for the performance in the Tabernacle.

Jeannine Goeckeritz, principal flutist for the orchestra and a studio musician, and Tamara Oswald, principal harpist for both the orchestra and Ballet West in Salt Lake City, were the featured soloists in the orchestra's performance of "Concerto for Flute and Harp" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Soprano voices from the choir joined the orchestra for Sergey Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise." Brother Gruppman explained that the title means "song without words." The rendition was literally that, with the women providing an interesting vocal effect. An emigrant from the former Soviet Union and a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, Brother Gruppman indicated that Rachmaninoff's piece has special meaning for him. He dedicated the performance to the memory of the children and adults who died in the recent terrorist siege of a school in Russia.

"Symphony No. 5 in E Minor" by Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, the final performance of the evening, was introduced by Brother Gruppman as evoking "the marvelous journey of a hero," from the opening movement, reflecting a heavy heart searching for beauty and building to a triumphant conclusion with the hero marching uprightly. In his introduction, Brother Gruppman told of a listener who approached a conductor following a concert and said, "Oh, Master, you have surely entertained us well," to which the conductor replied, "Then I have failed, because I intended to open the heavens to you and make you better."

"I think that says a lot about our mission here as musical missionaries," Brother Gruppman said.

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