Tuesday, March 2, 2021
March 2, 2021

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Competition winners get turns in Vancouver Symphony spotlight

Concert to feature 3 soloists from Young Artists Competition

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The winners of last year’s Young Artist Competition, violinist Hanami Froom, pianist Jacob Nenow and oboist Ben Price, are finally getting their due. Because of the pandemic, their scheduled appearance as soloists with the Vancouver Symphony was delayed until this weekend.

The concert will be livestreamed from Skyview Concert Hall. Sarah Ioannides, music director of Symphony Tacoma, will conduct the orchestra, which has been reduced to a strings-only ensemble.

Hanami Froom, winner of the string competition, is a freshman at the K12 International Academy. She began violin lessons with the Suzuki method when she was only 2 years old.

“My parents really love music and they wanted me to start at a young age,” Froom said. “They didn’t want me to be a violinist. They just wanted me to be involved in music. As I got older, I realized that I loved to play the violin.”

Froom, a co-concertmaster with the Portland Youth Philharmonic, practices two or three hours each day and takes lessons from Carol Sindell. With the Vancouver orchestra, she will perform the “Chaconne in G Minor” by Tomaso Vitali, an Italian composer from the Baroque era.

“This is a beautiful piece,” Froom said. “It begins with a theme and has 20 variations. Each variation is different, but they all fit together wonderfully. All of the technical parts are difficult. I want to express it well and make it sing.”

Froom understands how the music, written around 1745, still speaks to us today.

“The ‘Chaconne’ really connects with what we are going through right now with COVID-19,” Froom said. “It has parts that express sadness and parts that sound hopeful. It is a reminder that in spite of times when things get difficult and tough and you might think of giving up, but there is always hope.”

Jacob Nenow, winner of the keyboard competition, is a 16-year-old who has been playing piano for the past decade.

“My dad played piano a little,” Nenow said. “So, I wanted to learn, too. I became more serious about it five years ago.”

The sophomore at Jesuit High School, whose teacher is Renato Fabbro, regularly practices a couple hours every day. Nenow will perform the first movement from Bach’s “Concerto No. 1 in D Minor.”

“Originally, I was going to play the Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto,” Nenow said, “but we can’t have horns or winds in the orchestra because of COVID. A cool part is in the middle section, when the opening theme repeats and the violins and the piano go back and forth with each going up a higher note. Also, at the end, I have a cadenza solo that has a big crescendo. That’s a lot of fun.”

In the woodwind competition, oboist Ben Price, came out on top. The 17-year-old junior from Grant High School is the principal oboist with the Portland Youth Philharmonic. Price, who started on the oboe when he was 10, studies with Karen Wagner, principal oboist of the Oregon Symphony.

“I began playing the oboe because my father played the saxophone and I had to find a way to one-up him,” Price said. “The sax has one reed and the oboe has two. But I may have been attracted to the oboe after hearing a recording of the oboe solo in ‘Scheherazade.'”

Price has excelled with the oboe so much that he has already played in concerts in the VSO’s oboe section. Now he will take the spotlight to perform the first and third movements of the “Oboe Concerto in A Minor” by Ralph Vaughn Williams.

“The first and third movements are loosely based on the pentatonic scale,” remarked Price. “The first movement has interesting pattern in terms of what key it is in and what it modulates to. The third movement starts out as a very fast scherzo and modulates to a slower pastoral section with the same themes from the beginning but much slower. That’s a really cool effect.”

The young artists will be in excellent hands with Sarah Ioannides on the podium, because of her experience.

“As with any soloist I work with,” Ioannides said, “a key part is our teamwork in the rehearsal beforehand to meet and get to know each other musically. … I like to get to know the soloists’ communication style, comfort level with eye contact, physical motions. Young artists need to feel well supported, empowered and given extra confidence.”

Ioannides will also conduct Samuel Barber’s poignant and elegiac “Adagio for Strings,” one of the most famous pieces for chamber orchestra. Another piece on the program that is less well known is Benjamin Britten’s “Simple Symphony.”

“I love its playfulness, its youthful energy,” Ioannides said. “I enjoy the traditional aspects of the work’s structure and its recalling of the early English suites and string masterpieces by Henry Purcell and William Boyce. The work is far more mature than the years of the composer when he wrote it. Britten completed it when he was 20. So, it was reconstructed from sketches and compositions he wrote between the age of 9 and 12. When there are so many challenges in the world, it is most uplifting to let this music bring a smile on us.”

If you stream

What: Winners of the Young Artist Competition perform with the Vancouver Symphony under Sarah Ioannides in online-only concert

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

Where: Online (The concert takes place at Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver, but no audience is allowed due to COVID-19.)

Cost: $30 (The concert is free with a season subscription.)

Contact: 360-735-7278 or vancouversymphony.org

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