Posts Tagged ‘student musicians’

Master Classes with the Gewandhaus Orchestra

February 22, 2010

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Hours before their Feb. 17 concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall (presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic), several principal players from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra agreed to give 12 Idyllwild Arts students master classes.

“The players at the Gerwandhaus Orchestra have a very special way of thinking about music and playing phrases,” said Peter Askim, music director and composer-in-residence at the Idyllwild Arts Academy. “The students get a different perspective on music making, and each teacher has a different way of explaining the same concepts.”

The fortunate Idyllwild Arts students who took classes that day included Seann Trull and Rachael Hill, French horn; Ruo Gu Wang and Shen Liu, clarinet; Ting Yu “Monica” Yang, Lei Shao, and Anais “XO” Liu, cello; Xiao Fan Liu, Minyeong “Stephanie” Kim, Martin Peh, Lea Hausmann, and Dorisiya Yosifova, violin.

The four principals from the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra included Bernhard Krug, French horn; Andreas Lehnert, clarinet; Christian Geiger, cello; and Concertmaster Frank Michael Erben, violin.

Peter said that he chose the guest musicians based on their reputations as players and teachers, and he tried to give the most number of students the opportunity to experience the master classes.

Lei Shao, an Idyllwild Arts cellist, said that he chose the music for his hour-long session with Christian Geiger at the Colburn Center across from Disney Concert Hall. Lei said that he was excited, but nervous when he played for the professional cellist.

“He gave me some good advice on how to improve my playing, and I will apply it right away,” Lei said enthusiastically. The best part, he admitted, was when he got to hear Christian play on his own instrument.

Peter said the master classes were not easy to arrange, but he has connections with two American musicians who used to play for the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. “Usually the musicians are very happy to teach and meet students from other places when they travel,” he said.

During the concert at 8 p.m. that night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the students got to choose from seats located in the top balcony or behind the orchestra.

“I like to sit behind the stage and watch the conductor,” Peter admitted. “A lot of the students appreciated almost feeling like a part of the orchestra.” However, he wanted the pianists to sit in the balcony so that they could experience the piano soloist from that perspective.

“A lot of people don’t realize that at these concerts, it’s all about the music. You don’t have to sit where you can see the musicians,” said Samuel Chan, an Idyllwild Arts vocal student. Although Samuel sat behind the orchestra this time, he said the best place to hear was in the balcony.

For the students, their eyes were glued to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra during the entire performance, which included two pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven: The Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major, Op 73 “Emperor,” and Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op 92.

Peter said that the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 during their first concert in Idyllwild last year, and it was good for them to hear a professional version.

“The tempos that the conductor (Riccardo Chially) chose were different,” Peter said. “They have also been playing this music their whole life, and they are from the German culture that Beethoven is from. But I think our students did a very good job on the symphony last year, though!”

He thought the Leipzig Orchestra did a nice job that night. “Many students think that just playing the notes of a piece is enough, but seeing an orchestra like Gewandhaus shows them that the notes are just the beginning. Taking the notes on the page and turning them into such a moving musical experience, full of emotion and subtlety is beyond their imagination, and shows them how much they have to learn and grow.”

Kathryn Schmidt, an Idyllwild Arts jazz vocals student, said that Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 was one of her favorites because it was later adapted to include vocals. “The story is about a boy who loses his father,” Kathryn said. “It’s so beautiful and sad.”

Like Peter, she was particularly impressed with the Gewandhaus Orchestra’s ability to play very soft and loud.

According to the LA Phil materials, “Movement II (of the Piano Concerto No. 5) is one of the composer’s most sublime inspirations. The muted strings play a theme of incomparable beauty and sad tenderness, with the piano responding in hushed, descending triplets, creating subtle tension until the theme is fully exposed.”

The pianist who was supposed to accompany the Leipzig Orchestra was Nelson Freire from Brazil. However, for reasons unknown, Canadian pianist Louis Lortie replaced Nelson, and did an outstanding job. Lortie, who lives in Berlin, has received accolades for his Beethoven interpretations, stated LA Phil materials.

After the orchestra received a standing ovation before intermission, Louis came out and performed Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture, Op 43, for an encore.

“It’s ironic that he chose the Prometheus Overture as his encore, because that’s the piece that our orchestra played as an encore after they played Beethoven’s 7th Symphony last year,” said Samuel Chan, who is also Canadian. “We were rolling in the aisles and couldn’t believe that we chose the same music.”

According to the Disney Concert brochure, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the oldest civic concert orchestras in the world. It was founded by 16 merchants in 1743.

During his lifetime, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra performed all of Beethoven’s symphonies. This orchestra has an exceptionally wide repertoire and more than 200 performances each year. This is because of its multidisciplinary function as an orchestra, an opera orchestra and a chamber orchestra that performs cantatas with the St. Thomas Boys Choir.

Sheila Bernhoft had tears in her eyes after the concert, but she was not the only one. “The students were very, very inspired and had many new ideas to explore in their own music making,” Peter said. “They were also very appreciative, which makes me feel good and happy to do this kind of thing for them in the future.”

This was the last major trip that the music department will make this year. They plan to take a few small trips to see the Los Angeles Opera and the LA Philharmonic.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Piano Fest

January 22, 2010

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Piano Fest is the coolest name of all of our music concerts so far,” said an Idyllwild Arts student in anticipation of the event. “It sounds like a big, fun event, like Woodstock.”

In fact, Piano Fest got a standing ovation. Sixteen promising young piano students from Idyllwild Arts music department, ranging in ages from 14 to 18, presented an hour-long program on a stormy Monday night, January 18, that will not soon be forgotten.

Most of them played duets on the two shiny black, back-to-back grand pianos that dwarfed the stage. The selection of songs ranged from classical to ragtime.

The show opened with Zixiao Wang, Jia Ying Dong, Yifan Yin and Lin Wei Ruan, simultaneously playing Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major.” The thunderous and intense number would suddenly turn soft with crystal high notes that hushed the eager crowd.

Next came two sets of duets by four seniors. Le-Seul Yoen and Daphne Honma gave an impressive performance of Bolcom’s “The Eternal Feminine,” while Georgina Bertheau and Jonathon Naquin gave their Yamaha’s a workout with “The Serpent’s Kiss.”

Like serpents after prey, Georgina and Jonathon “pounded” the lower registers with their fists, and then suddenly, slipped off their keyboards and “rapped” their fingers along the top, bottom and edges of the piano. (Jonathon even “rapped” his fingers on Daphne, who was only turning pages for him). The daring and unconventional manner (like they were sometimes playing with boxing gloves or mallets), appealed to the teens in the audience.

Although it’s nearly impossible to get more than two grown pianists on a bench, three managed to take turns playing the tender “Valse and Romance,” by Rachmaninoff. Freshman Benny Kleinerman held his own along with seniors Tian-Peng “Timmy” Yu and Linda Edsinga.

However, when he was supposed to be resting, Timmy (last year’s Spotlight award winner) stood up and gave an impromptu ballroom dance across the stage that surprised and delighted the crowd. There was also a bit of well-choreographed “pushing and shoving” on their bench, until Timmy and Linda managed to knock Benny off with the final note.

“Fantasy on Porgy and Bess,” with selections from Gershwin and Grainger, capped off the evening. Anni Cao, Bohan Lin, Meiling Lin and Xue “Maxine” Gong took turns playing then flipping pages during this popular ensemble. Their rendition of “Summertime” warmed the crowd on the rainy evening.

The 100-over capacity crowd, made up of mostly students, faculty and hearty townsfolk, gave the 16 students who made up Piano Fest, a standing ovation.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.