Posts Tagged ‘Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra’

Student Orchestra Focuses on Dances & Rhymes

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Music Director Peter Askim congratulates Xiao after the Dec. 12 concert

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last weekend’s Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra concert was without any special guest artist or fanfare, but it was wonderful nonetheless. It featured dances from Platee and Marosszek, and, after intermission, a Mother Goose Suite that showcased Kodaly’s interpretation of five familiar nursery rhymes. This concert comes on the heels of the academy’s last popular concert, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Prokofiev, which was narrated by humorist Harry Shearer.

Music Director Peter Askim brought up Shearer again in his introduction Sunday. He said that next Sunday afternoon (Dec. 19), Shearer will be rebroadcasting the academy’s recording of “Peter and the Wolf” on his radio show called, “Le Show.”

“So if you’re anywhere near a radio or the internet, be sure and catch the broadcast,” Askim said.

He also mentioned that the arts academy orchestra has its Tschakovsky’s 5th Symphony release now on iTunes, which would make a perfect Christmas gift. Later, Askim thanked Gaylord Nichols for funding this and Saturday’s concert.

“Today’s concert features music from many different worlds. They’re almost like perfumes,” Askim explained. “Rameau was the father of modern day harmony, and we’re going to perform it the way it should be done–without a conductor.”

And with that, Askim walked off the podium, joking that he would be at JoAn’s (an Idyllwild restaurant).

For the “Suite of Dances from Platee,” the orchestra took direction from Xiao, a first violin student. Throughout the three movements in the suite, the student orchestra sounded much larger then the 25 strings onstage. They were helped, in part, by college-level and professional musicians, including Mariya Andoniya Andonova, a bass player who now attends The Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles.

Askim returned to the podium for the next piece, “Symphony No. 4 in C Minor,” by Franz Schubert. According to the program notes, Schubert completed this piece in 1816 at age 19, not much older than these students. The symphony is scored for strings, pairs of winds and timpani. It opens in a sober and serious mood, yet builds to show Shubert’s gift for melody.

Charles Schlacks, Jr., one of the many locals who attended the Sunday’s concert, said that the orchestra did a fine job on the Schubert piece “that really doesn’t go anywhere.”

Ai-Ching, who plays viola, said that the first half of the concert was good, but she liked the music in the second half.

“The Mother Goose Suites are worth listening to again,” said David, a music student, who had attended the concert the night before. He liked “The Mother Goose Suite” so much that he pursuaded his mother, who works in Idyllwild, to attend the second half after her shift.

The five suites included “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,”Little Homely, Empress of the Pagodes,” “Conversations of Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Fairy Garden.”

According to the program notes,Ravel was inspired by Perrault’s popular “Mother Goose” book collection and wrote a short suite for a piano duet, that was later expanded into a full ballet score.

“Schubert just took some of our favorite nursery rhymes and set them to music,” David said. “You wouldn’t recognize them from the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes, but you also won’t easily forget them.”

After a three-week Winter Break, the concerts will continue on Monday, Jan 17, with the ever-popular Piano Fest at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall. The next orchestra concert will be held on February 5 & 6. For more details, look to the Idyllwild Arts web site at www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Day Trip to a LA Philharmonic Concert

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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.