The sound of strings and woodwinds intermingled, accompanying the Senior concerto performances of violinist Graydon Tope ’14 and pianist Harvey Wu ’14 in Cochran Chapel last Sunday afternoon.
Tope, accompanied by the Academy Chamber Ensemble, performed an ethereal interpretation of “The Lark Ascending” by English symphony composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Tope’s performance of the piece, which was written about a skylark, started with a calm, pastoral melody. The combination of Tope’s smooth execution of the note changes and the powerful orchestral background highlighted her dexterity on the violin.
“I especially loved Graydon’s piece. It had this magical, delicate quality to it,” said Rachel Soong ’17.
According to Tope, the lightness of the piece drew her to choose “Lark Ascending.”
“[When] I first heard [‘Lark Ascending’], I was immediately entranced by its beauty and its poise. It inspired me to reflect on myself because when I hear the piece, I think of myself. The lark in the piece has a voice that it shares with everyone. I wanted to share my voice with the community and how I had grown as a musician and as an individual,” wrote Tope in an email to The Phillipian.
Contrasting Tope’s airy piece, pianist Harvey Wu ’14, accompanied by the Academy Symphony Orchestra, performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37,” which featured a deep, brooding melody.
The piece started with a slow, opening melody played by the strings and the woodwind section before Wu entered on the piano with a powerful ascending scale. Wu’s command of the piano allowed him to keep up with the piece’s play on tempo and themes. He surprised the audience with his impromptu cadenza of the piece, an improvised section of music common in classical concertos.
“[His] performance was unbelievable,” said Avery Kim ’17. “Harvey’s improvisation was incredible. To know an instrument so well that one can produce that [cadenza] in the moment is amazing.”
Wu said, “Some would say that performing one’s own cadenza is sacrilegious; however, performers during Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven’s day improvised their own cadenzas. It is this tradition that I wanted to revive and continue. Personally, I improvised a cadenza that followed the romantic idiom more than the classical, but why not? That is the message that I wanted to give to the audience.”
Both Tope and Wu received standing ovations after their performances.
In addition to accompanying Tope and Wu, the ensemble orchestras each delivered strong individual performances. The Corelli Ensemble kicked off the concert with Peter Warlock’s popular suite “Capriol Suite for String Orchestra.” Their performance was then followed by the Amadeus Ensemble’s rendition of two contrasting movements of “Quartet No. 1” by Heitor Villa-Lobos and the Academy Chamber Orchestra’s performance of the first and fourth movements of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Op. 21.”
“[The concert] was very exciting,” said James Orent, Conductor of the Academy Chamber and Symphony Orchestras. “[With] the students, there’s this extra energy that you don’t always get with the professionals…I think it’s particularly exciting for some of the players to get to sit on the stage and share the great music with [others]. The students really came through. There were some wonderful musical things that happened spontaneously today… some very magical musical moments.”
The concert came to a close as the Academy Symphony Orchestra, a combined force of all the musicians from the Chamber, Amadeus and Corelli ensembles, came together to deliver an energizing performance of “Rosamunde Overture Die Zauberharfe, Op. 26 (D. 797),” by Franz Schubert.
Hayley Taylor ’17 said, “I really loved Chamber Orchestra’s [‘Rosamunde Overture Die Zauberharfe’]. It didn’t sound as crowded or cacophonous as the other pieces. Honestly, it was not what I’d expect from a high school orchestra. It was different to listen to orchestral music, because I mostly listen to music with lyrics, but it was interesting. It was a good kind of change.”
Tope and Wu were chosen to be Senior soloists through a competition at the beginning of the school year.