Fast Fingers at Junior Recitals

Violinists Henry Chi and Minyeong Kim kicked off the Idyllwild Arts’ Junior Recital music series at 7:30 p.m. this evening (Feb. 23) at Stephens Recital Hall.  Each took turns showcasing their musical depth and adept fingering techniques.

Henry’s recital was first, and he warmed up to it by playing Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, seated in a semi-circle onstage with four of his friends: Ruo Gu “William” Wang, clarinet; Xian Fan “ShaSha” Liu, violin; Ai-Ching Huang, viola and Anais “XO” Liu, cello.

Since this piece was a clarinet quintet, William got more standout playtime, while Henry competed with another violin and viola.

“The students don’t get to pick the pieces for their recitals,” explained Douglas Ashcroft, Idyllwild Arts Music Chair, who was also a piano accompanist that evening. “It’s up to their teachers to decide.”

For his second piece, Mozart’s Rondo, Henry was alone onstage, except for Nelms McKelvain, playing the piano. This piece was up tempo and played very fast, and showed Henry’s fast-fingering technique.

The audience, comprised mostly of Idyllwild Arts students and faculty members, clapped and hooted enthusiastically after it was over. They marveled at Henry’s ability to play long songs from memory.

“The juniors have to prepare for this recital, in addition to doing all of their regular schoolwork, and attending classes, orchestra and small group practices,” Doug added.

As the title suggests, Henry’s third violin piece, Beethoven’s Romance in F, Op. 11, was romantic. With his haircut that hung in his eyes, Henry started to show emotion on his face during this piece.

His final, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, showed off his ability to pluck with his bow and entertain the audience. Doug accompanied him on this piece, which also featured long, dramatic pauses. A couple of students in the audience began to clap before the piece was over because they thought the long pause was the end of the song.

Henry didn’t crack a smile during the recital, but bowed deeply in appreciation of the audience after his final piece. He received a bouquet of flowers from a friend, and a standing ovation.

After a 15-minute intermission, it was Minyeong Kim’s turn. She walked boldly onstage in a red satin floor length gown with sequins and her hair in a ponytail. She nodded to Nelms, her accompanist, and immediately a big sound came out of her violin. Her first piece, Paganini’s Caprice No. 16, was very short, and powerful, but more edgy than Henry’s friendlier Mozart and Beethoven choices.

For her second piece, Prokoviev’s Concerto No. 1, Op. 19, Minyeong changed accompanists. Xue “Maxine” Gong, a fellow Idyllwild Arts student, took over the piano in a red, knee-length dress with roses. This piece by Prokoviev was a little lighter in tone and intensity, but definitely showed off Minyeong’s fast fingering abilities.

“It’s not surprising that her last piece came from a Russian composer,” said Yu-Wei “Una” Cheng, Minyeong’s best friend, who had helped her memorize her notes. “Minyeong’s (former) teacher in Korea was Russian.”

For her third piece, Minyeong chose Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28, by the French composer Saint-Saens. According to various web sites, it was commissioned by a 15-year-old violin prodigy at the time, and features virtuoso arpeggios and and chromatic scalar passages. Yet, the key remains in the darker lower range. Like Joan of Arc with her bow in battle, Minyeong played the edgy, dark music, while the audience remained transfixed.

During her final piece, however, Minyeong chose a more popular one that the audience could recognize, the Theme from Schlinder’s List by the American composer, John Williams. The piece was heartbreakingly sad (about a German businessman who saved 1,000 Polish Jews during the Holocaust), and earned Williams an Academy Award in 1993 for Best Original Music Score. Only during this piece did Minyeong show emotion by furrowing her brows.

Afterwards, the audience clapped, hollared and gave Minyeong a standing ovation. She walked away with three bouquets of flowers, including one from her mother and another from her best friend.

This evening’s Junior Recital was the first of many to come this year at Idyllwild Arts. Following the junior recitals, come senior recitals with a large graduating class. For those who like to hear outstanding classical music from young musicians, Idyllwild Arts is your (free!) ticket.

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