For the past 22 years, the Vancouver Symphony has held a competition for young and very talented musicians, providing the winners with monetary awards and the opportunity to play with the orchestra.
This weekend, you can hear the latest crop of gold medalists in the orchestra’s annual celebratory concert. The accomplished soloists who will be featured are pianists Lauren Yoon and Anthony Zheng, and cellist Richard Lu.
Yoon, a junior at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, Ore., started piano when she was 5 and now studies with Monica Ouchi Bunch. For the Young Artist concert, Yoon will play the first movement of Fredric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
“Chopin is one of my favorite composers,” Yoon said. “I love to connect emotionally with the Second Piano Concerto. I played the third movement of this concerto when I was 14, so it has been fun to work on the first movement, which is very difficult — especially the middle section.”
The 16-year-old pianist typically practices three or four hours every day. She has won numerous awards and has appeared in Michael Allen Harrison’s Ten Grands concert. She can get so involved in her music that she even dreams about it.
If You Go
• What: Vancouver Symphony Young Artist Concert.
• When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.
• Cost: $50 for reserved seats, $37 for general admission, $32 for seniors and $10 for students.
“Whenever I am nearing a competition or performance, I do a lot of mind work,” she said, “including listening to the piece and trying to play it without the piano keyboard.”
There is plenty of music-making in Yoon’s home, where her sister Taylor plays the cello and her other sister Ashley plays the violin. Together, they give concerts as the Yoon Trio.
“I love the piano because I can tell a story without using any words,” Yoon said.
Chopin is also one of Zheng’s favorite composers, but for the Vancouver Symphony concert, the 18-year-old will perform Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz” (“Dance of Death”). This will be the second time for Zheng to perform the piece with an orchestra, because he played it with the Central Oregon Symphony in February.
” ‘Totentanz’ is a really intense piece,” said Zheng. “It is really exhilarating to play it with an orchestra. It starts out in with a heavy march and has a slow section in the middle but then picks up speed. It has lots of octaves, big jumps, and fast repetitive notes that make it really exciting.”
Zheng started playing the piano 12 years ago and has racked up a number of awards for his performances. He now studies with Renato Fabbro and Paula Watt. At Westview High School in Beaverton, Ore., where he is a senior, he also enjoys singing with the choir when he’s not accompanying them on the piano.
With plans to attend college next year, Zheng intends to pursue science, but he will always keep piano as an outlet.
“Performing is fun for me,” he noted. “I enjoy it.”
You could say that Lu, 18, will have home field advantage at the concert because he is a senior at Skyview High School. Lu has been working on the fourth movement of Edward Elgar’s “Cello Concerto” for the past six months and is very excited to play it with the Vancouver Symphony.
“I love Elgar’s music,” explained Lu. “His Cello Concerto has a wonderful mix of fast, virtuosic stuff but it has a lot of places that are very passionate and flowing.”
Lu, a resident of Camas, began cello lessons when he was 8. His teacher is Marilyn De Oliveira, assistant principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony. Lu won the 2016 MetroArts Inc. Young Artists Debut! Competition and the Oregon Sinfonietta Concerto Competition in 2014. He is the co-principal cellist of the Portland Youth Philharmonic.
“I love the sound of the cello,” said Lu, “and how you can play all different types of music. The sound of the cello is very close to the human voice. I think that the cello can convey more expression and emotion than many other instruments.”
In the fall, Lu will go to college and study something in the science field, but he also plans to keep making music with his cello.
In keeping with a focus on youth, the orchestra under Music Director Salvador Brotons will take the spotlight for works by Paul Dukas, Maurice Ravel, and Richard Strauss that have the young at heart at their core.
Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” is sure to remind listeners of the Disney film “Fantasia,” when Mickey Mouse as the apprentice tries out a couple of his master’s spells to disastrous effect. Originally inspired by a poem that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned in 1797, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” launched Dukas’ career as a composer. Unfortunately, it is his only well-known piece, and history has relegated him to the one-hit wonder category.
Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite” started out as a piano piece for four-hands that he later orchestrated. It has five parts that depict fairy tales such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,” the “Empress of the Pagodas,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” In this piece, Ravel evokes a childlike wonder about the world and wraps it in a spell of enchantment.
“Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks,” written by Richard Strauss, celebrates the medieval prankster of German folklore who made fun of the stuffy bourgeoisie and complicit clergy. Till’s jokes and misadventures became the stuff of legend, and they were embellished in books that later inspired Strauss to write his episodic tone poem. It opens with a “once upon a time” theme and then takes the audience on a colorful series of events that end at the gallows … or maybe not. You’ll have to be at the concert to find out.