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The future of classical music is in good hands, at least in western North Carolina. Eleven teenage musicians, joined as the Asheville Young Musicians Club, will carry the tradition forward. This was made quite clear at the second annual benefit concert presented on Sunday in the Blue Ridge Auditorium of Deerfield Retirement Community. Ignoring thunderstorms, driving rain, and filled parking lots, an audience of one hundred and eighty nearly filled the hall to hear a concert, primarily of ensemble works, co-sponsored by the Asheville Chamber Music Series and the Asheville Area Piano Forum, and directed by UNCA music faculty member Dr. Hwa-Jin Kim. Concert proceeds support music education in Asheville and children's education in Nicaragua.
The benefit to young musicians of performing in chamber ensembles cannot be overemphasized. Part of a musical education is to learn to listen – to yourself and to your collaborators. While bands and orchestras provide one type of ensemble training, there are other lessons to learn when the ensemble does not have a conductor. The five string players, three woodwind players, and three pianists who gathered for this event have a leg up on their fellow students who practice only as soloists.
Leading off a concert can be stressful, but flutist Grace Kim and pianist Ryan Zhang did not show it in their performance of a Mozart Andante in C Major. The flutist demonstrated fine ornamentation and breath control. The pianist, an eighth-grader, started a bit mechanically but relaxed as the piece proceeded and was smoothly collaborative before and after the flute cadenza.
Monica Grady and Thomas Fleming performed Vivaldi's Concert for two violoncellos, with the orchestral reduction played by pianist Alyes Chen. This was a strong performance, with no compromise on tempo and excellent coordination.
Schubert's Sonatina in G minor, Op. 137, No. 3, is originally for violin and piano. Flutists Grace Kim and Stephen Walker and clarinetist Larissa Wood played a transcription of the Minuet and Trio from this sonatina. The same three eleventh-graders followed up with an arrangement of Fauré's Pavane. This modern world provides on-line scores for a variety of unusual instrumental combinations. These transcriptions were musically successful, although the clarinet part sounded a little dull to me. (The first flute got most of the good stuff.)
Grady and Fleming returned to the stage along with three violinists – Julian Pinelli, Matt Kitson, and Kristie Kim – for two movements (Minuet and Rondo) from Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K.525, followed by one of the concert's high points, a lovely presentation of Tomaso Albinoni's Adagio in G minor. The young players had a fine sense of the sustained tones, progression, and the role of counterpoint in the lyrical Albinoni piece.
Pianist Kiffen Loomis now joined the Kim sisters on flute and violin for two movements from J.J. Quantz's Trio Sonata in C Minor (QV 2:3), originally for two flutes and continuo. The three had a relaxed approach with a tight ensemble. I would have preferred the piano opened or on the short stick; having the lid down muffled the tone. The piano was, however, opened wide for the only solo performance of the day, Kiffen Loomis' quite mature interpretation of Chopin's Polonaise, Op. 40, No. 2, a work Chopin intended to represent the tragedy of Poland's suppression and defeat.
Mozart's Piano Quartet, K.478, was the source of a Rondo Mozart arranged for solo piano that was published posthumously as K.485. It is therefore entirely appropriate to arrange the Rondo for piano and strings. Violinist Julian Pinelli, cellist Monica Grady, and pianist Alyes Chen returned to the stage for this performance. One thing collaborating musicians learn to do is to "charge on regardless" after a big mixup, and these musicians did just that. They recovered from their discord, regained their equanimity, and most of the audience probably had forgotten the error by the time the final chords were played.
The musicians returned on stage en masse to perform Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 5, accompanied by their mentor Hwa-Jin Kim on piano. (The three student pianists observed.) It was an appropriately festive finale for a well-thought-out and well-delivered recital. There was on display a great deal of teenage talent.