This weekend’s Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concert will feature the winners of the 28th annual Young Artists Competition: violinist Jinan Laurentia Woo of New Jersey, bassoonist Preston Atkins of Iowa, and pianist Anwen Deng of Pennsylvania.
They each won $5,000 plus the opportunity to play a solo with the orchestra.
Jinan Laurentia Woo is a 15-year-old high school sophomore who started violin lessons when she was 4. She likes to practice two to three hours every day.
“I find beauty in the art of violin playing,” Woo said. “Your bow creates shapes and lines of melody connected by beautiful sound and your left hand articulates each note as if it is spoken. I also enjoy its wide range in pitch and volume and the versatility of violin performance, from being able to stand out in a violin concerto to blending beautifully with other instruments in a chamber group or orchestra performance.”
For the concert with the Vancouver Symphony, Woo will play the first movement from the Violin Concerto in D Minor by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.
“When playing this piece, I like to imagine the icy Finnish landscape in winter, especially in the eerie and cold beginning,” Woo said.
Preston Atkins, 17, graduated from high school a year early and is now studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He has been playing bassoon since he was 10.
Atkins said he usually practices two to three hours each day, but he also spends another hour making reeds for his mouthpiece.
He will perform Carl Maria von Weber’s Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in F Major.
“The fast parts are very catchy and at the same time it is operatic. The slow section is very lyrical. So the piece offers a lot of variety,” Atkins said. “I really love the music.”
Anwen Deng, 13, is studying at The Juilliard School of Music. She began playing piano when she was just 3.
“I’ve been told that I would sit on my mom’s lap and play piano,” Deng said.
Deng is already a veteran on the concert stage. She made her debut in 2019 in Australia, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major with the Brisbane Symphony Orchestra. In 2022 she played Mozart’s Concerto No. 20 in D Minor with an orchestra at the Aspen Music Festival.
With the Vancouver orchestra, Deng will play the first movement of Robert Schumann’s Concerto in A Minor for Piano and Orchestra.
“I love the main theme of this movement,” Deng said. “It is melancholy and beautiful. The way that the melody is passed between the orchestra and the soloist is wonderful. All in all, the piece has a lot of technical challenges, but I’ve practiced it a lot so that the music flows naturally.”
These three gold medalists were among 100 young musicians from around the country who entered the October competition. The judging panel consisted of former artistic director of Chamber Music Northwest and clarinetist David Shifrin; Grammy Award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey; the artistic director of the Kaufman Music Center International Piano Competition and pianist Igal Kesselman; music director and conductor of Symphony Tacoma Sarah Ioannides; and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra associate concertmaster Stephen Shepherd.
This weekend’s concert program also includes Symphony No. 4 in E Minor by Johannes Brahms. It was the last symphonic work that Brahms wrote and is considered one of the greatest pieces in symphonic literature. The orchestra’s music director Salvador Brotons will be on the podium for each piece in the program.