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Student recitals are often informal affairs that offer youngsters an opportunity to perform for an audience. Not this one. The 2014 North Carolina Bach Festival'sYouth Concert featured talented players we might picture as pre-professionals. Not only did they dress up for the occasion, but they also came with polished pieces and an abundance of poise. The master of ceremonies introduced this well-chosen group as "artists," a title reserved for highly accomplished musicians. Indeed, the well-prepared cohort of young players, at every level of development, deserved of high praise. The program included works by Baroque master J.S. Bach (1685-1750), composers in and around his sphere of influence, including Antonio Vivaldi (1669-1741), and composers who were inspired by him. The performance took place at the Raleigh Moravian Church.
We were delighted by a clarinet quartet version of Vivaldi's "Spring" from The Four Seasons, performed by Lydia Stocks, Molly Lowder, Madeline Downs, and Greg Watts, all students of Michael Cyzewski; the ensemble plays well together. Everything was in place: tempo, careful intonation, phrasing, and style. This was truly an appropriate composition. Bach admired Vivaldi's instrumental work and borrowed the ritornello form for his own pieces. And while Vivaldi preferred strings, Bach loved the sound of wind instruments. The quartet also played a Bach/Ayres arrangement and a movement from Claude Debussy's String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10. Perhaps the latter is the furthest out from Bach's strict German influence. But Bach and Debussy both loved musical texture and both composers often worked horizontally resulting in complex, beautiful colors.
Every student, from the five-year old Eiger N. Tsang (piano) to sixteen-year old Adithya Muralidharan (cello) played at musically appropriate tempos. Small skips and jumps slipped by painlessly in the way Arthur Rubenstein described as "tossing them in an imaginary basket," never allowing mistakes get in the way. Beautiful music, not perfection, was the goal.
Hopping up on the bench with enthusiasm, the first soloist, Eiger Tsang, played J.S. Bach's "Musette" from the English Suite No. 3. His small fingers raced along the keys as he played with the eagerness and joy only a small child can convey. Eiger's older brother, second grader Teevan Tsang, played Christian Petzold's Minuet in G. I loved his beautiful ornamentation, a difficult feat on a modern upright piano. I look forward to the Tsang boys performing on period instruments. They both study with Joy Byrd.
There were three string players. Violinist Zachary Schwartz (teacher: Margaret Hryniuk) played the presto movement from Bach's Concerto in G minor. His intonation was quite good and his articulation with the bow was excellent. Cellist Adithya Muralidharan (teacher: Brooks Whitehouse) played the Bourrée and Sarabande movements from Cello Suite No. 3 by Bach with fine technical facility. I'd like to hear him play again. And the promising young Aden Bonet (teacher: Joy Byrd) made history as the first guitarist to perform on the youth recitals with his lovely performance of the first Gavotte from Bach's Cello Suite No. 3.
The twelve-year old pianist Maximilian Goolsbey performed "Le Coucou" by Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772). He, too, played exceedingly well. His teacher, Joy Byrd, helped choose just the right piece. The composer, who was a child prodigy, became a professional organist at the same age as Maximilian.
Two singers performed, both seniors at Enloe High School who study with Judith Bruno. Melanie Piercy, lyric soprano, sang "The Silver Swan," one of Orlando Gibbon's signature pieces. She sang with great poise; her diction was very good, she navigated tricky ornamentation with ease and completely from memory. Patrick Cox, bass-baritone, sang "Vado ben spesso," an aria attributed to Salvator Rosa. The young singer communicated with the audience with gestures, eye contact and smiles as if this was a walk in the park (with his dearest friend). Cox has a very well supported voice and clearly loves to sing. Watch out for these two singers!
This is the first of two concerts of the 2014 North Carolina Bach Festival hosted by the Raleigh Moravian Church. The second, Music for Harpsichord and Cello, will take place on March 2.