Winter Senior Concerto Spotlights

The Symphony and Chamber Orchestras will showcase two more senior musicians this term, Jennifer Miao ’10 and Jack You ’10. Both will perform their senior concertos on February 23rd. Jennifer Miao ’10 Miao is a Chopin fanatic, and she is not afraid to admit it. She feels a connection with the music of Frederic Chopin that she feels with no other composer, and she will be conveying her love of Chopin’s music to the community when she performs the second movement of his “Piano Concerto in F minor” with the Academy Symphony Orchestra. The piece begins with a soft, apprehensive introduction in the orchestra. The piano’s entrance creates a spellbound atmosphere. The melody is decorated by ornamental runs, turns and trills full of nuance. In the middle section, Chopin conveys a growing agony and emotion with a shuddering orchestral background. As if suddenly soothed, the piano melody relaxes back down to the singing verse that began the piece. At the end, the solo ascends into the high registers of the piano and gradually dies away with a dreamlike, angelic final note. Miao savors the changing emotions the piece conveys. She said, “I just thought this [concerto] is…so beautiful, tranquil, yet yearning for something. There’s so much agony and bittersweet melodies towards the middle section, where you have loud base notes…Towards the end, you’re back to the tranquil stage.” Miao’s favorite part of the concerto is when the piano solo plays parallel with the winds. She said, “That sort of unity is very beautiful…Whenever I listen to it, a sense of calm washes over me.” Though the second movement is slow in tempo, compared with the other movements, Miao said that Chopin was able to achieve a perfect balance of both excitement and tranquility. “I think that Chopin…embodies the true romantic. He stands out through all his technique – trills, lingering notes – it really says something.” Miao predicts that one of the most difficult aspects of performing the piece will be coordinating the liberal tempo and rhythm with the orchestra. She said, “I hope that my way of playing it will be constant and not confuse the orchestra. If the orchestra and I can communicate, if we can work together to make this concerto into one piece, then I think we really [will] have music. I just really hope for that unity.” Miao began learning piano when she was five years old. As a child, she rebelled against playing the piano and against her parents by running away. She first fell in love with piano performance when she heard a recording of Evgeny Kissin playing Franz Liszt’s “La Campanella.” However, she did not fully appreciate music until she heard Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. She admitted, “I listened to it in secret, because I had told my mom I did not like to practice.” Over the years, music has become a major part of Miao’s life, not to mention that her parents have let loose a little, helping Miao to openly express her love for the piano. Miao currently studies at school with Christopher Walter, Instructor in Music, who is one of the best teachers she has ever had. Miao acknowledged that she would have never gotten the opportunity to play with the orchestra without Walter. Aside from her concerto, Miao is preparing for a senior recital, in which she will play selections of Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, a few Chinese pieces, and Prokofiev, as well as a surprise piece. Jack You ’10 Clarinet virtuoso Jack You has devoured almost all clarinet repertoire, his favorite of which is Luigi Bassi’s “Fantasy on Themes from ‘Rigoletto’ by Verdi,” which he will be performing with the Chamber Orchestra. You said, “I enjoyed the ‘Rigoletto’ the most because of its virtuosity and cool arrangement of a well-known tune from the opera, ‘Rigoletto.’” The opera, and its spin-off for the clarinet, tells the story of a hunch-backed jester named Rigoletto who works in the court of the Duke of Mantua. The lusty Duke has a love affair with Countess Ceprano as well as Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda. The protective Rigoletto plots to assassinate the Duke, but through a misunderstanding, the hired assassin stabs Gilda instead, who dies in her father’s arms. Bassi’s version for clarinet begins with a grand yet ominous orchestra introduction. The clarinet enters with a series of free-flowing cadenzas. Each subsequent variation builds up on the last, eventually ending with a speedy, frenzied passage that requires great virtuosity to play. You said, “My favorite part of ‘Rigoletto’ is…when the orchestra takes over the melody and I just play the arpeggio. It’s technically very demanding, but it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the piece. I also enjoy playing the last variation which is just crazy-fast. Every time I play that section, I get an adrenaline rush!” The piece is at times mischievous, reflecting the character of the jester Rigoletto. At other times, it is frantic with flying notes, perhaps symbolizing the fatal misunderstanding central to the story. You enjoys performing as a soloist with Chamber Orchestra, though he feels pressured to play well because many musicians are supporting his solo. “At the same time,” he said, “that suspense is what makes performance exciting.” The piece is generally fast, with many changes in tempo. You said, “It will be extremely difficult for the orchestra to play in time with me because I take the music so liberally and bend the tempo so much. It makes it musical but much more difficult to coordinate.” You has played the clarinet ever since he was in the third grade. He began his musical career with violin and piano, but he later followed his piano teacher’s suggestion to try the clarinet and turned out to prefer it over violin and piano. Since then, You has participated in orchestras, chamber music and band. In addition to serving as principal clarinetist in Phillips Academy ensembles, he is the principal clarinetist of the prestigious Youth Philharmonic Orchestra at the New England Conservatory. You admitted, “Being an Andover student, it is very hard to find time to practice independently, especially if you participate in activities other than musical ensembles.” However, You’s musicality and technical prowess will be sure to impress when he performs “Rigoletto” in February.