Young artists take spotlight at concert

Symphony to present teen musicians, plus a Prokofiev cantata to conclude its 34th season

By

Published:

 

If you go

What: Vancouver Symphony features winners of Young Artists Competition, plus Oregon Repertory singer Christine Meadows in “Alexander Nevsky.”

When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St.

Cost: $50 reserved, $35 general, $30 seniors, $10 students.

Information: 360-735-7278 or vancouversymphony.org

A great way to get more young people into the concert hall is to put them on stage.

That's exactly what the Vancouver Symphony plans to do during the first half of this weekend's concert, which feature the winners of the orchestra's annual young artists competition. The second half of the program will present Sergi Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky," a large-scale work that will feature the Oregon Repertory Singers and mezzo-soprano Christine Meadows. Music Director Salvador Brotons will conduct all of the works in the concert, the final one of the orchestra's 34th season.

For the past 19 years, the Vancouver Symphony has sponsored a contest for young artists from Southwest Washington and the Portland metro area. This year's competition, divided into piano, strings, and woodwinds and brass categories, attracted more than 50 musicians younger than 19. The final round was held March 10 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vancouver, and the winners received up to $1,000 each in prize money, plus a concert date with the orchestra.

Cellist Megan Yip, a 16-year-old junior at Jesuit High School in Beaverton, won the strings division. Yip started on the cello when she was 6 and has maintained excellent skills as a pianist as well. She will play one of the "Variations on a Rococo Theme" by Tchaikovsky. It's more or less a concerto for cello and orchestra, consisting of a theme and seven variations on that theme.

"I am a big fan of Romantic composers," Yip said, "because of the beautiful lines and heart-wrenching moments. So the sixth variation is one of my favorites."

Over the past two years, Yip has been traveling on weekends up Interstate 5 to study with David Requiro, artist in residence at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. This fall, Yip plans to leave Portland to attend the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts, which is affiliated with the New England Conservatory.

Clarinetist Isabel Skau is a 16-year-old student at David Douglas High School in Portland. After starting her musical studies on the piano, Skau picked up the clarinet when she was in the fifth grade, because she wanted to join the school band. For the past two years, Skau has been the principal clarinetist of the Portland Youth Philharmonic and a student of Dunja Jennings, who teaches at Lewis & Clark College.

Skau will play the first movement of Louis Spohr's Clarinet Concerto No. 1 with orchestra.

"I chose the Spohr concerto because I thought it has beautiful melodies and sounded challenging," Skau said. "It is a very technically and musically demanding piece. I hope that the audience finds it enjoyable and that my performance might motivate younger audience members to take up an instrument or inspire other young musicians to try more challenging works."

Andrew Yoon, a 17-year-old junior at Westview High School in Portland, fell in love with the piano 11 years ago when he had his first piano lesson. Yoon takes lessons from Renato Fabbro, who teaches at the University of Portland and Marylhurst University, Yoon also finds time to study violin and play in the Portland Youth Philharmonic.

Yoon will play the "Capriccio Brilliante" for piano and orchestra by Felix Mendelssohn.

"Some places in the Mendelssohn are tricky," Yoon said. "There's a scale-like passage in which the right hand plays for three beats and the left comes in on the fourth, followed by straight 16th notes … . It's obvious when everything is not perfectly aligned."

After intermission, the Oregon Repertory Singers and mezzo-soprano Christine Meadows will join the orchestra to perform Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky. " In 1939, Prokofiev distilled the cantata from a score that he had written the previous year for a Soviet propaganda film by Sergei Eisenstein. The cantata tells the story of the great 13th century military hero Alexander Nevsky, who defended Russia from an invasion by the Teutonic (German) Knights. Josefph Stalin thought that the movie would unite the Soviet people against a possible invasion by the Germans. The movie soon became a classic, not because of its Communist undertones, but because of its unique fusion of film and music.

The chorus, prepared by Dr. Ethan Sperry, will sing Latin text during musical selections that portray the German crusaders, and Russian text for the peasant soldiers. They come to a huge clash during the "Battle on the Ice."

"Nevsky is really a loud piece," Sperry said. "But several movements divide the men into six parts and feature the altos in their lower range, with the sopranos not singing at all. So there are big demands on the choir in the low range. The harmonies are not difficult, but it's loud and demands power from the lower ranges. Also, the orchestra is often in a different key right before

the choir enters in another key. The piece is a blast and unfortunately not done enough."

Brush Prairie resident Gary Ritter, a member of the choir's bass section since 1990, agrees with Sperry.

"The Prokofiev piece requires a lot of volume," Ritter said. "It was meant to stir up the emotions, and it's going to be fun to sing it with Vancouver Symphony, especially for choir members who live on this side of the Columbia River."

Soloist Christine Meadows, a veteran of many opera companies, including Portland Opera and New York City Opera, is a voice teacher and director of the opera program at Portland State University.

"I've got just a short part of the whole cantata," Meadows said." I've done it twice before. I'm a Prokofiev nut. I find his music very compelling. The text tells of a young woman who flies over the dead. She says that she will not marry a handsome man, because after so much death, earthly beauty disappears. She then says that she will marry an honorable man. It's very patriotic and moving."

Overall, "Alexander Nevsky" is roller coaster of a ride in symphonic and choral form, and with Brotons on the podium, it could easily become the highlight of the season for the Vancouver Symphony.