The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Let us now praise the young soloists and young composer who will be spotlighted at the University of Wisconsin School of Music’s annual FREE concerto competition concert this Friday night.

February 9, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

There is something heroic and stirring about a concerto that pits a single soloist against a big orchestra. So student instruments dream of the day and wait a long time for the big chance to perform a concerto.

Concertos are an exciting music genre to play and to hear, as you hear this Friday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall when the annual FREE UW concerto competition winners will perform with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below, with the UW Choral Union) under James Smith and David Grandis.

I say that as someone who played the piano in a concerto competition when I was 16 (Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15) and lost to a 12- or 13-year-old who played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488, very beautifully.

When friends find that out, they often said “I’m sorry you lost.”

But they shouldn’t be.

Concerto competitions do much more than declare winners.

In my case, the contest showed me exactly what needed to know: I didn’t have either the talent or temperament for a performing career. And it was better to have learned it sooner rather than later, after I had invested a lot of hard work, time and money in unrealistic fantasies of success.

But these young people at the University of Wisconsin School of Music have been tested in public performance before and I think their credentials speak well for them. The only thing I don’t like is that they perform movements, not entire concertos. But if that weren’t the case, the concert would last much longer.

I also like that singing is included. (That wasn’t the case in my day, as I recall.) And I like that less familiar instruments (like the marimba) get a chance to compete with the piano, strings, winds and brass. Finally, I like the young talent for composition is presented to the public.

It all reflects well on the teachers and teaching. In fact, the students at the UW School of Music just seem to get better and better as the years go by. I haven’t al these winners, but I have heard the piano in an absolutely first-rate and riveting performance of Beethoven’s final sonata, Op. 111 in C minor. So I assume the standards for winning were very high indeed.

Here is the UW press release with complete details

You don’t have to wait until after the concerts to applaud such persistence, hard work and talent.

UW SYMPHONY CONCERT FEATURES COMPETITION WINNERS

The UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of James Smith (below) will present its annual concerto and composition competition winners this Friday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall.

Admission is FREE and open to the public.

Five students were selected as winners in this year’s competition. Four will perform as soloists with the orchestra: Alice Bartsch, violin; Michael Roemer, baritone; Jeongmin Lee, piano; and Brett Walter, percussion.  In the separate category for composition, Youn-Jae Ok won for “Mi-Ryen,” which will be premiered by the orchestra on this same program.

Alice Bartsch (below) is a sophomore pursuing the Bachelor of Music degree in violin performance and studies with Felicia Moye.  She hails from Bloomington, Minnesota, and Bartsch’s past teachers include Ellen Kim and Young-Nam Kim.  She currently holds scholarships from the School of Music and the School of Music Alumni Association.  In addition to being a full-time student, Bartsch is a member of the first violin section of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and teaches violin privately. In high school, she was a finalist in the Minnesota Youth Symphony concerto competition.  She has participated in both the Northern Lights Chamber Music Institute and the Madeline Island Music Camp. Bartsch’s biggest aspiration is to perform in the pit orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera.  At this concert, she will perform all four movements of Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy.”

Michael Roemer (below) is currently pursuing the Master of Music degree in opera, studying with William Farlow and Julia Faulkner and holding a teaching assistantship in voice. He received the Bachelor of Music degree in voice performance at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he studied with Brian Leeper  A native of Brodhead, Wisconsin, he received an Encouragement Award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Wisconsin District in 2011.  In the same year, he performed with the Des Moines Metro Opera as an apprentice artist.  Last fall, he played the role of Marcello in University Opera’s production of “La Bohème” and next month, he will play the title role in the company’s production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” For the symphony program, Roemer will perform “Hai già vinta la causa . . . Vedrò mentre io sospiro” from “Le nozze de Figaro” by Mozart.  

Jeongmin Lee (below) is pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance and pedagogy, studying with Todd Welbourne and Jessica Johnson.  Originally from Seoul, Korea, she received the Bachelor of Music degree from Seoul National University, where she studied with Nakho Paik and Haesun Paik. She earned an artist diploma in piano performance at Oberlin Conservatory studying with Haewon Song and the Master of Music degree in piano performance and pedagogy at Northwestern University studying with Alan Chow and Marcia Bosits.  Lee is the recipient of the Perlman Trio scholarship from the School of Music.  She previously taught piano at Yanbian University of Science and Technology and music at Yanbian International Academy in China. Lee will perform the first movement (Allegro moderato) of Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major,” Op. 58.

Brett Walter is pursuing the Master of Music degree in percussion performance, studying with Anthony Di Sanza.  Originally from Grafton, Wisconsin, he received the Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he studied with Cheryl Grosso. He previously studied with Tom Fischer. Walter was a member of the 2007 Colts Drum and Bugle Corps and won second place in the Green Bay Civic Symphony Concerto Competition  In addition, he is a freelance musician and an active sectional coach with the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. Walter will perform “Prism Rhapsody for Marimba and Orchestra” by Keiko Abe.

Youn-Jae Ok (below) is a candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition and has studied with Stephen Dembski and Laura Schwendinger.  His early schooling was in Korea and England and he completed the International Baccalaureate at the Chateau du Rosey in Switzerland.  Ok holds the Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music and the Master of Music degree from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts. His teachers include Stacy Garrop, Daron Hagen, Joel Hoffman, Michael Fiday and Mara Helmuth.  Ok was the winner of the 2007-08 Roosevelt Wind Ensemble Competition for “Audacity” and was a regional winner of the 2008 SCI/ASCAP student composition competition for “Zest for Olive Salad.”  He is a repeat winner of the School of Music’s composition competition, having won in 2009 for “Vacillation.”  

Ok’s program notes begin, “The title of the piece, ‘Mi-Ryen,’ is an emotional state that describes a mixture of the following feelings: longing, nostalgia, lingering, regret and hovering. . . .  Mi-Ryen is perhaps a piece that describes an emotional state rather than expressing it, opening possibilities for audiences to link the described emotion to their current emotional state.  In other words, its intention is to evoke the listener’s emotions and not to impose emotion of my own.”

The new work will be performed under the direction of graduate assistant conductor David Grandis (below). Grandis will also open the concert with the Overture to Verdi’s “La forza del destino.”

A free public reception for musicians and audience will follow in Mills Hall lobby, sponsored by the School of Music Alumni Association. Mills Hall is located in the Mosse Humanities Building on the UW-Madison campus, at the corner of Park Street and University Avenue.

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