Senior Concertos Feature Five Stellar Pianists and Violinists

Senior musicians looking to squeeze in one last ovation performed at the Senior Concerto concert, launched by the Music Department. The performance featured two pianists, Randy Li ’10 and Julie Xie ’10, and three violinists, Nikita Saxena ’10, Lauren Kim ’10 and Hoonie Moon ’10. Because so many seniors sought to perform their concertos with the Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, not all musicians got the chance to do so. This separate concert was developed as a way to spotlight these senior musicians. Saxena opened the concert with the first movement of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 26. From melancholy melodies to angry, pounding sections, this piece featured a range of emotions. The piano began with a series of ominous chords and gave way to an impassioned violin cadenza. When the two instruments united, the piece gained a fervent forcefulness, while the violin managed to remain graceful with its long tones. Saxena said, “Before the concert I was completely freaking out. Then I came up [on the stage], and all of my friends were here, and that was really reassuring. Once you start playing, you sort of get in a zone.” Kim played the triumphant finale of the same concerto, which was filled with frenzied energy. “It’s a really exciting piece, especially since it’s the third movement. It’s a lot more upbeat, and at the same time there are just really pretty parts in between that I absolutely love,” she said. The lively tempo and double stops presented technical challenges, but Kim overcame them seamlessly. “There were just a lot of notes to cover, and you had to play them really fast,” she explained. No one could have guessed that Xie felt nervous as she played the light-hearted first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. A cheerful motif passed between the two piano solo and accompaniment, set apart by Xie’s legato solos. “If you could have seen me [backstage], I was just pacing and not being able to breath,” she said. The atmosphere became serious as Randy Li followed with Molto allegro con fuoco, from Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25. After a fast-paced and frightening introduction, the piece explored lighter variations and then returned to the same dramatic theme with a rush of virtuosic arpeggios. Li said, “What I like about [this concerto] is its stormy character. The big, clashing chords are always fun to play.” Moon finished the show with Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor, Op. 37 by Henri Viextemps, a passionate and gripping piece that kept listeners perched on the edges of their seats until the last chord. The alternation between passionate, sorrowful sections, angry sixteenth note passages and gentle melodies made this piece complex and surprising. A sizable mix of students, faculty, family and members of the local community came to support and admire the musicians. Audience members were intrigued by not only the music but also the facial expressions and gestures each performer made. All of the musicians were focused, and several closed their eyes or moved expressively with the music. The performance left viewers impressed. Jasmine Edison ’11 said, “I’m really glad I went. It was a really good display of technique and passion, extreme passion.” “The performers had impressive stage presence, and I enjoyed their command of their pieces,” said Jacob Shack ’10. According to Instructor in Music Christopher Walter, 15 musicians auditioned to perform concertos at the beginning of the year, and the faculty “thought very strongly that these five should get a chance to perform.” “Everybody played extremely well, and…even though they didn’t get to [perform] with the orchestra, [this concert] is the next best thing,” Walter said. Moon described, “That sense of achievement that you feel after finishing your concert is really rewarding. I am really grateful that the music department provided the occasion for people who didn’t necessarily make the audition in terms of performing with the orchestra.” “This is probably what we will do next year too, to keep the tradition,” explained Mr. Walter. If this performance was any measure of the skill found on campus, there will be high standards and tough competition in years to come, and, to be sure, more great music.