Carmel Music Society Presents 2011 Instrumental Competition Winners

Anne Thorp presents the winners: Rachel Wong, Jae-In Shin and Meta Weiss

A large audience turned out Saturday evening at Sunset Center to enjoy the 8:00 pm Awards Concert featuring the three prize winners of the Carmel Music Society’s 35 Annual Competition.

The Society’s President, Anne Thorp welcomed the audience and introduced the Instrumental Competition’s judges, Dr. Edward C. Harris, Director of the School of Music and Dance at San Jose State University and Director of the Wind Ensemble, Henry Gronnier, Founding member of the Rossetti String Quartet and faculty member at the Colburn School and University of Southern California., and Jung-Ho Pak, Conductor and Artistic Director of Orchestra Nova of San Diego and the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra.

The judges presented the awards on stage. The Grand Prize, consisting of $5000, which in part includes an opportunity to perform in May 2012 as part of the Carmel Music Society’s subscription series, was awarded to violinist Jae-In Shin, 27, born in Korea and currently studying at the University of Washington as a candidate for a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree. The Second Prize of $2000 was awarded to cellist Meta Weiss, 24, from the Netherlands, and currently a student at the Juilliard School of Music, also a candidate for a DMA degree. The Third Prize of $1500 was awarded to violinist Rachel Wong, 19, a student at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas in Austin . During the Awards Concert, the young prize winners were scheduled to play in reverse order, with the Grand Prize Winner ending the evening’s program.

Violinist Rachel Wong came out on stage with pianist Aram Arakelyan to begin the concert and launched into a fiery performance of the third movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47. Although ensemble roughness and balance problems marred this performance, it nevertheless burned with passion and excitement. Following a lovely, expressive performance of the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Wong totally blew us away with a fabulous rendition of Wieniawski’s Souvenir de Moscou. Her clarity of tone and accuracy of pitch was astonishing, and never more so than in her high harmonics, where they were not only precisely in tune, but they were shaped and molded with her skillful control of dynamics. In this piece we heard true virtuosity where the most difficult problems are so thoroughly mastered they sound like child’s play. This was artistic music making on a high order such as we rarely hear. The audience responded with bravos and a spontaneous standing ovation.

Next we heard cellist Meta Weiss who began her program with two selections for unaccompanied cello: the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 3 in C Major and two movements from George Crumb’s Solo Sonata. Producing a big rich sound from her instrument, her Bach was bold, impassioned and elegantly styled. Most probably the Crumb Cello Sonata is unfamiliar to most of the audience (it was to me), and it made a powerful impression. The Tema pastorale con variazioni was an angular, prickly movement full of surprises and very effectively performed. The final movement, Toccata, was lots of fun as it swung along with its persistent rhythmic spikiness. Weiss ended her program with the first movement of the great  Cello Concerto by Elgar. Joining her to play the orchestra reduction was pianist Stephen Tosh, who reportedly had only a single last minute rehearsal with Weiss. It was a rich and satisfying performance and was enthusiastically received by the audience.

Ending the program violinist Jae-In Shin and pianist Aram Arakelyan launched into a powerful and exciting performance of the first movement of the Sibelius Violin Concerto. It was a knockout! Powerful gestures, rhythmic excitement, soaring melodies — you name it — Shin was there producing it. Once again we heard a performance of the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, and we heard quite a different performance from Ms. Wong’s, but different in interesting ways and equally valid. Shin ended her performance with a riveting performance of Paganini’s Caprice No. 5, and it was spectacular! Ms. Shin received an outstanding ovation from the audience and two bouquets of flowers appeared mysteriously from the audience.

Those who were unable to attend the competition and hear all seven finalists, missed some excellent performances. In the morning we heard flutist Brendan Ryan, 21, a junior at USC, who made a fine impression performing the first movement of Mozart’s Concerto for Flute in D Major, K. 314, Debussy’s Syrinx, Böhm’s “Fantasy on a Theme of Schubert” and a Sonatine by Dutilleux. One of the most astonishing performances of the day was by saxophonist Sean Hurlburt, 26, a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University who played a work by Luciano Berio consisting of a jazzy dissonant fantasy against an obbligato consisting of a synthetically-produced unrelenting A440 tone.

During the afternoon we heard some dazzling playing by violinist Caitlin Kelley, 23, performing the Andante of Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14, the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G minor, a movement from a Mozart Violin and Piano Sonata and a wildly satisfying Serenade by Leonard Bernstein. We also heard some unusual repertoire by guitarist Adam Cockerham, 21, playing the first movement of Ponce’s Guitar Sonata No. 3, selections from Bach’s Lute Suite No. 1 in E minor, and Giuliani Sonata Eroica, Op. 150, a stylish work full of interesting guitar effects that were beautifully and effortlessly executed.

We need to honor the collaborative pianists, without whom, all but guitarist Adam Cockerham would not have been able to perform during the competition. The multi-talented pianist/composer Stephen Tosh from San Luis Obispo, appearing on short notice and with minimal rehearsals performed twice during the day’s competition and once during the awards ceremony with Jae-In Shin. Another brilliant young pianist/collaborator was Aram Arakelyan, from Austin Texas, who performed brilliantly with Meta Weis and Rachel Wong. We also need to honor the screening jurors violinist Jenny Bifano, clarinetist Robert Reid and baritone Peter Tuff, who spent many hours listening to the CDs accompanying the applications. The CDs they listened to were identified only by a code number that didn’t reveal the age, gender, or professional background of each contestant.


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