Solo recitals to showcase students’ artistic development

Lily Jonsson, a viola student in the School of Music, receives feedback from Kate Reynolds during a class taught by Karen Ritscher Wednesday in Fletcher Music Hall. Jess Kszos/Staff Photographer

Zoe Kolenovsky
Staff writer

In a weekend celebrating young artistry, the School of Music will be presenting four student recitals Saturday and Sunday to highlight the individual talents of the Instrumental Program’s students.

The festivities begin at 2 p.m. Saturday in Fletcher Music Hall, as resident faculty member Karen Ritscher presents eight of her viola students.

“Viola is basically an ensemble instrument, so for each of us to stand alone takes courage,” she said. “It’s more intimate, each person is really offering their deepest sharing.”

Student Owne Xayboury echoed this sentiment: “Solo recitals are like a gateway to someone’s personality and their identity. … It’s a place where a person can just be themselves and express who they are and what they do and what they love doing.”

The afternoon concert will include works by Johannes Brahms, Paul Hindemith, Henri Vieuxtemps, William Walton, Philipp Scharwenka, Sergei Prokofiev and Rebecca Clarke, in a showcase of classical favorites.

Xayboury will be performing Clarke’s 1919 Sonata for Viola and Piano. He explained that the piece was written for a sonata competition which she lost because the judges at the time didn’t believe women could, or should, be composers.

“All my life I’ve been playing pieces by men,” he said. “I feel like it’s really important to highlight woman composers because they are competent, they are human. We are the same.”

Xayboury will be joined onstage by fellow students Lily Jonsson, Joia Findeis, Kate Reynolds, Mira Vaughn, Mack Jones, JeongJae Lee, Ho Fei Ng and Anna Stein, each student performing a solo with piano accompaniment.

Ritscher called the students’ work all summer “incredible,” capped off by this weekend’s performances.

“Now it’s time to support each other and celebrate viola love,” she said.

Later Saturday evening, Fletcher will be filled once again with students at 6 p.m., this time from the cello department as Felix Wang leads them through a selection of pieces spanning four centuries.

“I love the program for this recital,” Wang said, “It’s quite diverse.”

Student Ari H. Scott agreed, noting that her colleagues are “putting on some really neat stuff.”

“I like to see a lot of people put in their own personal (touch),” she continued. “You can express yourself a little bit more than you could otherwise … with the chamber concerts and the orchestra concerts, where we don’t really get to choose our own rep.”

Scott will be performing French composer Jean Francaix’s Variations de Concert, with Akiko Konishi on piano.

“He has a very French, kind of impressionist Debussy-esque sound, but he’s a bit more neoclassical at the same time,” she said. “He has a really unique, colorful style that is sometimes difficult on the cello because he was actually a winds player, but it’s really expressive language. It’s very humorous and kind of light.”

In addition to Francaix, the night’s program is comprised of works by Prokofiev, Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Kenji Bunch, Jean Francaix and Henryk Wieniawski.

“Probably one of the most iconic cello works of all time is in this program: the prelude to Bach’s G Major Suite,” Wang said. “Bach is always wonderful; his works are masterpieces of counterpoint and harmony.”

Cellist Abby Hanna will be delivering her rendition of this piece, alongside performances by colleagues Scott, Maria Savarese, Teo Dage, Layla Morris, Jooahn Yoo, Griffin Seuter, Adrian Hsieh, Sofia Puccio and Anna Holmes.

“The solo recital gives them the chance to step out and own the stage themselves,” Wang said. “It’s been fun watching the cellists become a section in the orchestra and learn to work together … but this is a chance for them to find their individual voices.”

The Instrumental Program’s bass students will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday in Fletcher.

Instructors Owen Lee and Curtis Burris will lead the six students through works composed by Serge Koussevitzky, Giovanni Bottesini, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Bach.

“Bottesini’s ‘La Sonnambula’ is a virtuosic tour de force of flashy pyrotechnics,” said Lee. He described Duo Chen’s rendition in rehearsals as “perfect and effortless.”

Chen will play the finale in Sunday afternoon’s concert, preceded by fellow students JoHanna Arnold, Jane Hanneman, Danny Sesi, Eric Reigelsperger and Olivia McCallum.

“I see them developing their ear and attention to detail,” Lee said about their progress over the summer. 

Reigelsperger said the students’ individual effort will be on display. 

“For solo works, you can really see the skill, time and effort flourishing,” he said.

The final installment in the recital series will be a collection of performances by 11 of the school’s violin students under the tutelage of Almita Vamos at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in Fletcher.

“When they’re playing with the orchestra, the focus is usually on longer concertos,” said Vamos. “We avoid some very short but beautiful pieces, so some of those are in the program for Sunday.”

Violinists Hobart Shi, Jameson Darcy, Carlos Chacon, Ian Stripling Jenson, Matthew Musachio, Kate Nelson, Pavlo Kyryliuk, Sarah Yang, Emma Johnson, Laura Herrera, John Heo and Wendi Li will be taking the stage to perform works by Bach, Beethoven, Fritz Kreisler, Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Claude Debussy, Johan Halvorsen, Jean Sibelius, Manuel Ponce, Wieniawski, Niccolo Paganini and Tan Dun.

“I’ve been stressing to the students to play this concert as if they’re playing in Carnegie Hall,” Vamos said. “We’re making it in our own minds to be something very special.”

All in all, the weekend will be one to remember for the School of Music as they present the talents of many of their students for the Chautauqua community to enjoy.

“They continue to try to grow as musicians, and Chautauqua nurtures every aspect of that,” Wang said.


The author Zoe Kolenovsky