The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison pianist Amy Hua, 16, will open the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s 28th annual summer Concerts on the Square next Wednesday night with Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto

June 24, 2011
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A REMINDER: This summer’s season of by the Madison-based Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society wraps up today, Saturday and Sunday with concerts at the Stoughton Opera House, The Playhouse in Madison’s Overture Center and at Hillside Theater at Frank Lloyd Wright‘s historic Taliesin compound  in Spring Green. The programs include some wonderful piano trios by Ravel, Debussy and Brahms and a two-piano work as well as other chamber music and works by J.S. Bach. It’s been an outstanding season so far for the group, so you might want to catch at least one or both of the final programs celebrating the 20th anniversary of the BDDS. For more information about programs, artists, venues and tickets, visit:

By Jacob Stockinger

Next Wednesday night, June 29, at 7 p.m., the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra will open its 28th year of FREE summer Concerts on the Square (below).

The orchestra will perform the two-hours concerts on the King Street corner of the Square.

Each of the six concerts will be given on consecutive Wednesdays through Aug. 3 is expected to draw up to 20,000 people or more to each concert (and 120,000 for the entire series) who sit around the state Capitol and eat dinner, have drinks, chat with family and friends, and listen to some fine music finely performed. (Rain dates are Thursday, and cancellations will be called by 3 p.m. and announced on the website, Facebook page and on MAGIC 98 radio – as well as here if possible.)

The conductor for five of the concerts is WCO music director Andrew Sewell (below).

Here is a link to the web site with information about COS dates, times, music, food and other aspects of what is billed as “the biggest picnic of summer.”

And here is a link to the opening concert:

The guest soloist for the opening concert is Madison high school student Amy Hua, who will perform the first movement of Grieg’s popular Piano Concerto in A Minor. None other than Sergei Rachmaninoff called the most effective piano concerto ever written — and Rachmaninoff himself knew a thing or two about writing piano concertos.

Also on the program are Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”; Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers” with dancers of the Madison Ballet in choreography by their director W. Earle Smith; and Ravel’s “Mother Goose” Suite.

Hua (below) won this year’s WCO concerto competition for young people.

She recently gave an email interview to The Ear, who this year is emphasizing musical education and students, in view of the budget cuts to education and the tough economic times for arts support.

What is your name? How old are you? And when did you start studying music?

My name is Amy Hua and I am 16 years old. I began studying the piano when I was four and the violin when I was seven.

What are you going to perform?

I will be performing the first movement Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (below).

What grade are you in now and what school do you go to?

I just finished my sophomore year at Madison West High School (below) and I will be a junior in the fall.

What are your favorite subjects? Do you have other areas of interest?

I love learning, so I don’t have a favorite subject in particular. But I especially enjoy studying science (chemistry, biology, physics), math, and languages. I’m involved in many extracurricular activities at West High, including Math Team, Science Olympiad, Rocket Club, SMART (Students Modeling A Research Topic) Team, Student Council, Student Support Foundation, tutoring, and community service. I also enjoy drawing, painting, swimming and playing tennis in my free time.

What are your plans for higher education and a career?

I plan to attend college and pursue a double major in science and music. I’d love to perform in a chamber orchestra or symphony orchestra.

Where did you get your musical training?

When I was four, I discovered that I have perfect pitch. As a result, I began pursuing music and started studying the piano with Janet Esser. Since, I have been studying piano performance with Gloria Chuang and Heejeong Hyong.

I have also studied the violin for seven years with Bonnie Greene and Eugene Purdue. Aside from performing as an individual, I was a violinist in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras from 2005 to 2008 and in the 2009-2010 season and a flutist in my school band.

Do you have a favorite composer and favorite pieces to listen to or to play?

I have numerous favorite composers, including Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Shostakovich, Mahler, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin. I especially enjoy listening to works of composers of the Romantic era because I can feel a true connection to the emotions conveyed in the music.

A few of my favorite works are Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 1, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and Beethoven’s “Pathetique” Sonata.

Why is playing music important to you and what does playing music teach you?

Music is important to me because it allows me to communicate my emotions and experiences in a unique manner. It transcends other forms of communication since music is able to touch people of all cultures, languages, and backgrounds. When I perform, I can feel a true connection to the piece and to the audience, through the emotions transmitted.

While the general framework of a work of music is set, the performer is able to shape the music in their own way, creating a unique work of art and convoking different emotions. For this, I love playing music since it allows me to fit my own life into the piece.

Was there an Aha! moment or turning point when you knew you wanted to be very serious about pursuing classical music?

I’ve had a couple of significant turning points. When I was eleven, I was featured in the Verona Arts Showcase and I performed the third movement of Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 2. My audience was very responsive and enthusiastic, and it was then that I realized the power of music and the feelings it can communicate.

Just after my grandpa passed away, I had another piano performance that ended up having a great impact on me. It was very difficult to play some of the repertoire because I was so emotional, but I felt a deeper connection to the music than I had ever had before. I learned that music has many layers and that its true meaning is uncovered by developing each layer. For this, I enjoy performing music for others, as it allows me to expose people to its wonders and convey the sense of sheer elation I feel when I hear music.

What advice would you give others, students and adults, about studying music?

Play because you love it and do it for yourself, not just for others or to succeed in competitions. When you’re performing, let go of any inhibitions and just dive into your music. That way, it will be easier to relate to the music and find its true meaning. There are many aspects of music, so don’t get too wrapped up in the technical issues.

How important do you think music education is in relation to other areas of education?

I believe that music is very important in relation to development in other areas of education. Studies have shown that music has a considerable impact on people’s brains and, as a result, develops logic, perception, and agility and increases aptitude in languages, math and the sciences.

Music also cultivates self-expression, creativity and an understanding of oneself. It nurtures values that are essential for learning in all areas of education – respect, a strong work ethic, self-discipline, and perseverance. Hence, music has an immeasurable impact on a person’s development, emotionally and tangibly.

What does getting the chance to perform a concerto with and orchestra mean to you and why?

I am so honored to have the opportunity to perform with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. This will be my first performance with a professional symphony, so I’m very excited to play with all the wonderful orchestra musicians. I really look forward to performing the Grieg Piano Concerto (below) and being able to both fit my piano part into place with the orchestral parts and create my own music as a pianist.

Posted in Classical music

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