3 winners of concerto competition to play Mozart with youth orchestra

January 07, 1994|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

Three young pianists from three counties will make their concerto debuts with the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra this month.

Sara Jones, a senior at Easton High School in Talbot County, Erin Wagner, a junior at Northern High School in Calvert County and Erika Knepp, a sophomore at South River High School, will each perform a movement of Mozart's celestial Piano Concerto No. 17, K.453, with conductor Arne Running on the podium.

The Ward Alan Virts Memorial Concerto Competition won by these young women was held in Annapolis Nov. 21 and was jointly sponsored by the CYSO and the Anne Arundel Music Teachers Association.

This is the second competition, the first in which cash prizes have been awarded.

Dr. and Mrs. Henry Virts of St. Mary's County endowed the three $100 awards in memory of their son, who died last spring in Spain where he was teaching piano.

The competition judges were Mr. Running; Douglas Allanbrook of St. John's College; Frances Cheng-Koors, a pianist from the Peabody Preparatory Institute; and Helen Tarchalski, a pianist and teacher from Montgomery County.

Putting a complicated concerto together on short notice with a young orchestra and three teen-age soloists is truly a daunting prospect, but Mr. Running is quick to point out the virtues of

such a collaboration.

"It is a great opportunity for pianists to come out of their solitary existence and perform with others," he says. "Fitting the solo part together with a large body of players and with an unfamiliar conductor is a real challenge. But we'll get it."

Miss Jones, who will play the sparkling first movement, concurs. "I've accompanied the choir at school, so I'm used to playing with singers, but this is different. For a while I was worried about messing up, but everyone's been very supportive, and I've been working hard to memorize my part," she says.

Miss Wagner is also a clarinetist and has played with the CYSO, but this time the vantage point is different. "You have to stop looking at your hands and follow the conductor, so it is harder," she says. "But I'm excited. It's going to be a really good concert."

Miss Knepp has been working on the effervescent "Allegretto" since July.

"This conductor is much more expressive than others I've seen," she says. "It has been a very interesting experience."

Also encouraging has been the orchestra's response to the concerto. "They're thrilled to be playing Mozart," Mr. Running says. "Many of the players have come up during our break to say how much they love playing it."

And why not? After all, as Dvorak observed, "Mozart is sunshine."

The CYSO winter concert is at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at Key Auditorium on the campus of St. John's College in Annapolis. Tickets are $8 for adults; $5 for students. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelop with ticket requests and a check to "CYSO" to P.O. Box 863, Arnold 21012, or call 647-8474.

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