Competition Judges Sandy Wilson, Farkhad Khudyev & Jung-Ho Pak
An enthusiastic audience turned out Saturday evening at Sunset Center to enjoy the 8:00 pm Awards Concert featuring the three winners of the Carmel Music Society’s 38th Annual Competition. The 2014 Instrumental Competition was open to instrumentalists between the ages of 18 and 30, who live, study or were born in California, Oregon and Washington.
The Society’s President, Anne Thorp, welcomed the audience and introduced the competition judges, Farkhad Khudyev, Conductor of the Youth Music Monterey County Orchestra, Jung-Ho Pak, Conductor of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra (also a resident of Carmel Valley) and Sandy Wilson, cellist and co-founder of the Alexander Quartet.
The judges presented the awards on stage. The Grand Prize, consisting of $5000, which in part includes an opportunity to perform in 2015 as part of the Carmel Music Society’s subscription series, was awarded to 20-year-old harpist Noël Wan, a native of San Jose California who will be attending Yale University’s School of Music in the fall of 2014 as a DMA candidate. The second prize of $2000 was awarded to Jeff Siegfried, 26, who is emerging as a unique voice in his generation of saxophonists. The third prize was awarded to Vardan Gasparyan, 24, who is a Master of Music degree candidate at the Colburn School conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. During the awards concert, the young prizewinners were scheduled to play in reverse order with the Grand Prize Winner ending the evening’s program.
Cellist Vardan Gasparyan & pianist Inyoung Huh
Vardan Gasparyan opened the evening’s program with a nicely styled performance of the Prelude from Bach’s Suite No. 6 for Solo Cello in D Major, BWV 1012. Next he performed Grave (Metamorphoses for Cello & Piano) by Witold Lutoslawski, a fascinating piece that begins with the first four notes from Pelléas et Mélisande and through metamorphic changes of intervals and rhythmic patterns develops a frenzy of violent sound. Joining him in this work was the fine pianist Inyoung Huh, who helped reinforce much of work’s appeal through expert handling of the complicated textures. Gasparyan and Huh finished off this portion of the program with a rich and exciting performance of the 4th movement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85.
Jeff Siegfried & pianist Liz Ames
Most members of our local audiences on the Monterey Peninsula are not particularly in to the saxophone repertoire, so hearing Jeff Siegfried in today’s competition was an eye-opening experience, and then to hear him repeat his selections during the Awards Concert was a double whammy, for most of us had no idea of what extraordinary effects the saxophone in its various configurations could produce. In performing the Bourrée anglaise from Bach’s Unaccompanied Suite in A Minor, Siegfried was kind enough to include one composer with whom we were familiar, but the other three: Demersseman, Decruck and Lauba, were definitely terra incognita. Assisted by the fine pianist Liz Ames, Siegfried gave us “showstopper” performances of selections from Decruck’s Sonata in C, the fabulous Fantasy on an Original Theme by Jules Demersseman, and the enigmatic and fantastic ending piece, “Worksong” by Christian Lauba. These were amazing performances!
After intermission Noël Wan appeared on stage with her “magic harp” — actually, it was a Lyon & Healy, the Hamburg Steinway of concert harps, which you, too, can purchase on Google for $18K (that would be a previously-owned one). Anyway, under her hands it became a protean magic harp capable of an astounding variety of sounds and effects. However, more important than the sounds and effects was the totally musical way in which her disciplined control made all these sounds and effects serve musical purposes way beyond the incredible virtuosity she displayed so effortlessly. We were hearing the highest levels of artistic playing with superb control of dynamics from sotto voce to fortissimo, elegant shaping of phrases, unbelievable cantabile with soaring melodies over whispering broken chord patterns, etc., etc., etc. Wan’s three selections by Spohr, Esteban Benzecry and Henriette Renie, were, like the unfamiliar repertoire served up to us by Siegfried, again eye-opening voyages to unfamiliar territory.
If you had asked me the previous day whether I would consider an evening’s concert of solo harp music appropriate for a featured concert on the Carmel Music Society’s regular subscription series to be an appropriate choice, I would have said, “No.” Today, I proudly eat my words, for Noël Wan is an artist so fascinating and authoritative, I can easily imagine being enthralled by a solo evening in her presence. Of course, when you consider Ms. Wan inviting a few other musicians to share an evening’s concert with her, then the repertoire possibilities become endless. I am truly looking forward to her concert on the CMS series next year. I have the impression that many would agree with me, for at the end of her performance the audience errupted in a frenzy of bravos and cheers.
Those who were not able to attend the competition earlier in the day missed some excellent performances. During the morning we heard Hans Kristian Goldstein, 26, born near Oslo, Sweden, but currently studying cello with Ralph Kirshbaum at USC’s Thornton School of Music, who knocked our socks off with a fantastic rendition of David Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody and solid performances of one movement from Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata and two movements from the Shostakovich Cello Sonata. Saxophonist Lucas Hopkins, 24, a California native and a candidate for the Master of Music degree at Northwestern University, surprised us with his exciting playing of a sonata movement by Fernande Decruck and Klonos by Piet Swerts. Also heard during the morning was violinist Caitlin Kelley, 26, a recent graduate from the Master of Music program at the Juilliard School, who impressed us with her fine playing in movements from sonatas by Bach and Brahms, plus a dazzling performance of the first movement of the Barber Violin Concerto.
The unsung héros in today’s Instrumental Competition were the two excellent pianists, Inyoung Huh and Liz Ames. Although listed in the program as “accompanists,” it is more politically correct these days to call them “collaborative pianists” or “assisting pianists. In any case the word “accompanist” is now officially shunned — some will say that the “A” word is as offensive as the “F” word. Inyoung Huh has a Bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University, a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory, a doctorate from USC’s Thornton School of Music, has worked for the Perlman Music Program and presently works at the Colburn School. Liz Ames has a doctorate in collaborative piano from the University of Arizona and currently lives in Chicago, where she is a staff pianist at Northwestern University. She is also a saxophone specialist working with saxophonists, performing around the world in saxophone competitions and conferences, plus recording and performing with saxophonists in recitals. She also writes orchestral reductions of works for saxophone, tuba and other instruments.
Sadly, the 2014 Carmel Music Society Instrumental Competition is the last instrumental competition the CMS will present. Because of budget restrictions, from now on the CMS will present only a piano competition, and it will occur every other year beginning in 2016. Well, the instrumental competition this year was a great way to end the cycle.