by Daniel Hathaway

Oberlin, OH — August 16, 2011

Ten very talented violinists played eight different concertos in afternoon and evening sessions today in Oberlin Conservatory’s Warner Concert Hall. It’s clear that violin playing has a bright future in the hands of these impressive young musicians.


Alexandra Switala: Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 63 — Ms. Switala (17, from Grapevine, TX) looked entirely composed as she established good tempos and spun long phrases. She showed expert control of pitch and vibrato and her double stops and high triplets were ravishing. Perhaps the final Allegro was a bit aggressive, but her playing was confident and musical.

Zhu Ke: Paganini Concerto No. 1 in D Major, Op. 6 — Mr. Ke (17, from China) chose a real 19th century showpiece full of violinistic fireworks (plus a few cheesy slides) and played it with ease and room-filling tone. In his lyrical second movement, he got inside the music and made interesting changes of vibrato. There as a lot to admire about this performance, including a splendid cadenza, well-chosen tempos and superb spiccatos.

Sirena Huang: Mendelssohn Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 — Ms. Huang (17, from South Korea) gives the impression that knows the piece from end to end. She achieved beautiful, subtle mood and color changes, but her vibrato was always on and sometimes became intense. Nothing fazed her. She began the Finale fast then pushed the tempo, but managed to keep it playful as well as exciting. Her cadenzas sounded improvised, and that’s a good thing.

Mayumi Kanagawa: Brahms Concerto in D Major, Op. 99 — Ms. Kanagawa (16, from Japan) played an impressive Brahms concerto, not overly intense and characterized by controlled freedom. She began with a strong, rhythmic pulse and a full sound, and showed fine bow control and sense of melodic line. The slow movement was entirely lovely with sweet, clear high notes. The finale was steady and grand with fine accents and subtle stretches in the main theme. The cadenza was mature and well paced.

Laura Park: Sibelius Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 — Ms. Park (17, from Des Plaines, IL) has an amazing technique and a big vibrant sound which she brought to bear on the Sibelius concerto. Of the three versions of this concerto performed today, hers was by far the most Romantic in concept. The opening was arresting, and she maintained its intensity through the rest of the work. She played the long, first movement cadenza expertly.

Brandon Garbot: Sibelius Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 — Mr. Gargot (17, from Portland, OR and most recently, Cleveland) created a beautiful sensitive musical landscape at the beginning which gained the perfect amount of intensity as it built. He seems to have a clear understanding of the structure and spirit of the piece. He tossed off the scales in the first movement cadenza with ease and achieved a fine level of introspection in the Adagio. Here is a young player who already displays real musical maturity.


Gergana Haralampieva: Dvorak Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53 — Ms. Haralampieva (17, from Bulgaria) made the Dvorak concerto look and sound easy. She let the piece unfold naturally and played maturely with complete control. She produced fabulous double stops, nice color changes and subtle shifts of mood, and created lovely sounds and lines in the slow section. She has the useful skill of being able to play softly and project at the same time. The gypsies definitely arrived during the third movement. And brava on the last note of the piece: she nailed it.

Stephen Kim: Sibelius Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 — Mr. Kim (15, from Cupertino, CA) added nice musical touches to the opening of the Sibelius and took a good, mature approach to the piece which didn’t preclude taking interesting chances. He consciously controlled his vibrato, used a full range of dynamics and had a good way of intensifying a line without pushing. Mr. Kim was exciting to hear and watch. He sounded like he’s still experimenting with the piece, and may need to acquire more physical strength to meet all of its challenges.

Kelly Talim: Shostakovich Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77 — Ms. Talim (15, from Japan) was strong and steady throughout the four movement Shostakovich concerto, and achieved a fine, even tone in every texture and situation. The Scherzo had great rhythm and control, though she might have played more with its meter changes. She paced the third movement cadenza masterfully, letting it build slowly and inexorably into the last movement.

Ania Filochowska: Wieniawski Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22 — Ms. Filochowska (17, Poland) really knows the Wieniawski. She had a plan and executed it beautifully, achieving fine changes of mood and playing sparklingly clean scale passages. She exhibited great control in the introduction to the last movement. Somewhat like the Paganini heard earlier this afternoon, the Wieniawski is a showpiece with lots of violinistic effects (swoopy glissandos popped up a few times), but Ms. Filochowska inhabited it and put it across admirably.

Echoing the remarks of competition director Gregory Fulkerson, a round of applause to the pianists who collaborated with today’s soloists: Christine Hill, Alicja Basinska, Elizabeth DeMio, Yu Sakamoto and Roberta Whitely.