Day Trip to a LA Philharmonic Concert

Mariya & Chris, LA Phil's bass principal

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“We don’t want just to listen to dead composers,” said Peter Askim, music director and composer-in-residence, Idyllwild Arts Academy. That’s why he took 10 music students to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic on March 12, which included “Five Elements,” a contemporary piece by Qigang Chen, a Chinese composer.

The piece focused on music that sounded like the five elements–water, wood, fire, earth and metal—and changed in two-minute intervals.

“You could really hear the water,” said Sebastian, an Idyllwild Arts music student from Heidelberg. “I’m not a big fan of ‘program’ music, but this one was very good.”

“It was hard to hear it as one piece,” Askim added, “but it had its moments.”

During the “Five Elements,” Askim nudged Yu-Wei “Una” Cheng, a percussionist, to pay attention to the LA Phil percussionists as they played the timpani (kettle drums) and marimbas.

To get authentic wooden and metal sounds, the percussionists relied on several wooden and metal instruments, including a xylophone, a vibraphone and two large marimbas.

Una said that the school has a marimba that she’s played before, and they’re very old instruments.

“Before they make the marimbas, they age a special kind of wood for about 50 years,” Una explained. Only two countries make them, including the U.S. and Japan. She thinks that the one at the school was made in Japan.

Besides Chen’s “Five Elements,” LA Phil’s two-hour program included works by Beethoven and Strauss. For Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op 37, Joyce Yang, a young Korean pianist (not much older than the students) impressed the audience.

“She’s a student at Julliard now, but has a great career ahead of her,” added Askim.

According to the brochure, Yang is considered “the most gifted young pianist of her generation.” She has won numerous awards and has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, among others.

Under the direction of Edo de Waart, the chief conductor and artistic director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Yang and the orchestra played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto to the liking of most of the students in the group.

“She played it beautifully and didn’t pound the keys. There was less ‘pomp’ and more romance in her version,” said Andrew Leeson, an instructor and Summer Program coordinator at Idyllwild Arts.

Sebastian agreed. “Beethoven is always played so heavy handed.”

Mariya-Andoniya Andonova, a bass player who was celebrating her birthday that day, came to hear Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” or “A Hero’s Life.” There were nine bass players in the LA Philharmonic that day, including a woman from the San Diego Symphony, whom Askim knew.

“They always make me play ‘A Hero’s Life’ during my auditions,” said Mariya, a senior from Bulgaria, who is applying to colleges. “It’s really a difficult piece to play.”

Askim, who is also a bass player, agreed that the bass part of “A Hero’s Life” was challenging, yet good to watch professionals play it. That’s why he encouraged Mariya and Michael Minor, another bass student at Idyllwild Arts, to attend the show.

“No one else will notice (the bass part) because everyone else is playing, but you’ll see Mariya give it her full attention,” Askim teased.

Martin Chalifour, principal violinist, who had solos during “A Hero’s Life,” Chris Hanulik, principal bassist, and Carrie Dennis, principal violist, chatted with the students outside Disney Hall afterwards. Martin and Carrie had recently played with the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, and Chris is Mariya’s bass instructor.

Connor Merritt, an Idyllwild Arts trombonist, was happy to attend the event. “It’s great to get away from Idyllwild for the day and hear some New Age music,” he said.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


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Mariya & Chris, LA Phil's bass principal
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Mariya Andoniya & Chris Hanulik from LA Phil
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