On the Air This Week

Highlights from July 30 to Aug. 6

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: Cellist Anthony Ross and pianist Timothy Lovelace play the Debussy Cello Sonata.

Thursday, 8 pm: Jerome Moross: The Big Country and Beyond.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 5: War Cries.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: Organ and Friends.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: The Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, in a program of Bach, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.

Monday, 7 pm: Roll Credits.

The results of the e-Piano Competition are in

One of the things I love most about the Concerto Round of the International e-Piano Junior Competition is watching members of the Minnesota Orchestra do their absolute best to make these kids shine. Conductor Mark Russell Smith gets the award for mentoring the contestants and, after just one rehearsal, keeping soloist and orchestra together. It all added up to a pretty exciting concert yesterday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis. Last night, the awards were presented. Here’s the scoop:

1st Prize: Eric Lu (Eric was also awarded the Schubert Prize)

2nd Prize: Carmen Knoll (Carmen was also awarded the Variations Prize)

3rd Prize: Yuanfan Yang

4th Prize: JiaXin Min

5th Prize: Christopher Son Richardson

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota

Last night, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra performed in Somsen Auditorium in Winona as part of the Minnesota Beethoven Festival.

Orpheus is my second-favorite orchestra (the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are in a tie for first), and I’ve always wanted to hear them live. Last night was OCO’s first trip to Minnesota in their 40 years of performing together.

It was incredible. I did not want the show to end.

For insight into what makes Orpheus so special, check out this conversation (at least the first few moments) between three Orpheus members and Jeffrey Kimpton, president of Interlochen Center for the Arts.

As for Wednesday night, it was mesmerizing to watch the players work together. After each piece, they left the stage, only to return to a completely different seating organization for the next tune.

The final piece on the program was Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

I’ve never been a massive Tchaikovsky fan, and before you hate on me in the comments, let me just say that his Serenade for Strings is one of the most exquisitely written pieces of music by anyone ever. I have such a deep respect and love for that piece, and for Tchaikovsky himself, even if he’s not one of my favorites.

On top of that, Tchaik’s Serenade is one of OCO’s signature pieces. It seems logical then, that they played it beautifully.

I’ve never heard the 3rd movement played like they played it last night. It was as if the music came from their own breath. This recording will give you a sense of how delicately it can be played with a large orchestra.

When OCO began those opening notes to that third movement, it was like petals of a flower unfolding in the morning sun. My heart ached from the beauty of the music. I wanted to stay in that moment far longer than the moment allowed.

It was one of several magical spells they wove throughout the evening.

The Tchaik was the last official piece on the program, and OCO turned to Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances for the encore. I never expected Bartok, following Rossini, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and it was the perfect end to the show.

After Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s performance last night, I decided that were I to strike it rich, I’d hop a plane on a whim to go hear whatever orchestra I want, whenever I want. Berlin, London, New York, LA, or wherever OCO is scheduled. Who are your favorite orchestras?

I hope you like Chopin!

It was just after 9 last night when the five finalists for the International e-Piano Junior Competition were announced. I’ve been following this competition since 2006 and this year I had the hardest time choosing my top five. In fact, by this time there is often a clear leader among the contestants. I would say, that’s not the case this year.

What does that mean for you? Head to Ted Mann Concert Hall Friday afternoon to hear the Final/Concerto Round and decide for yourself. The free concert starts at 4 o’clock. If you can’t make it, we’ll broadcast the event live on Classical MPR. Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Mark Russell Smith have one rehearsal (that’s it!) this afternoon. Here’s the rundown:

Yuanfan Yang, 16 from the UK: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1

Christopher Son Richardson, 14, USA: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1

Carmen Knoll, 15, USA: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2

JiaXin Min, 17, China: Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3

Eric Lu, 15, USA: Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1

e-Piano Competition finalists will be determined today

We’re down to the Semi-Final Round at the International e-Piano Junior Competition. Beginning at noon, each of the nine contestants will present a 45 minute program. At the end of the day, the judges will select five who move on the the Final Concerto Round. If you’ve been following our coverage and find yourself wishing that you could see and hear more, you’re in luck. All of today’s performances are streamed live on the competition website and if you’d like to go back and check out some of the earlier rounds, they’re also available. Just click here and then look to the right where it says 40 (or more) videos.

Of course, there’s nothing like hearing live music. If you’re in or near the Twin Cities on Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock, please consider heading to Ted Mann Concert Hall for a FREE performance of the Final Round. You’ll hear the five finalists joined by members of the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Mark Russell Smith. We won’t know the exact program until those finalists are selected. More on that tomorrow.

On the Air This Week

Highlights from July 9 to 16

Thursday, 3 pm hour: Regional Spotlight: The Arianna String Quartet plays Mendelssohn at the Madeline Island Music Camp.

Friday, 4 pm: From the International e-Piano Junior Competition, the Concerto Final Rounds, broadcast live.

Saturday, 7 pm: Song of America, Part 2: Stephen Foster.

Sunday, 6 am: Pipedreams: At the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Sunday, noon: From the Top.

Sunday, 1 pm: SymphonyCast: Christian Thielemann leads the Dresden Staatskapelle in Bruckner and Brahms.

We're down to 9 at the e-Piano Jr. Competition

Yesterday was a full day at the International e-Piano Junior Competition. Each of the remaining 12 contestants presented a 30 minute solo recital. The playing began at noon and lasted for nine hours, with a short dinner break. At the end of the day, Alex Braginsky, artist director and founder of the competition, announced the names of the nine contestants who would move on to the next round. As things turned out, two of the three who were eliminated are the youngest contestants (12 and 13). Perhaps they just need time to mature as players and make a little more sense of the difficult music they’re playing.

I’m happy to report that one of the contestants who did advance to the Semi-Final Round is Evren Ozel from Minneapolis. Evren is 14 and a student of Paul Wirth. When he competes tomorrow he’ll play Chopin, Mendelssohn and Debussy.

Today, there’s a break in the action. Word has it a trip to the Mall of America is planned for those who don’t stay behind to practice. Of course, parents (and their wallets!) are invited, too.

The e-Piano Junior Competition begins

First of all, let me say that the name is misleading. Once you get past the fact that the contestants are young, 17 and under, there’s nothing very junior about the International e-Piano Jr. Competition which got underway this weekend at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault.

On Saturday and Sunday, each of the 19 contestants played a 25 minutes solo recital. Requirements of that round are Bach, a movement from a Classical sonata, and a virtuoso etude. The rest is up to the contestant. That included lots of Chopin, as well as Debussy, Prokofiev, Schumann, Ravel and Scriabin.

What impressed me the most is the high level of playing. Most of the time, you don’t listen and think how remarkable the playing is for someone who is only 15. It’s just remarkable.

Performances are archived on the competition website. I encourage you to listen.