Two gifted young musicians from the Howard County public school system will take center stage at the Smith Theatre at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Columbia Orchestra presents a program of music by Beethoven, Prokofiev, Ravel and Frank Martin.
Flutist Martha Cargo and violinist Xinzi Liu are this year's winners of the annual Young Artist Competition sponsored by the orchestra.
The pair of accomplished young musicians was chosen from a field of 23 applicants after submitting to a preliminary audition and performing a solo recital.
"It was a very competitive field," says the orchestra's conductor, Jason Love. "These are very fine musicians."
Cargo, a sophomore at Oakland Mills High School, will perform "Ballade" by Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974).
Originally crafted for flute and piano, the work exists today in this orchestral format courtesy of Ernest Ansermet, the longtime conductor of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. It is a varied piece -- mysterious and lyrical at one moment, then angular and highly virtuosic in the next.
Liu, an eighth-grader from Dunloggin Middle School in Ellicott City, will play the "Tzigane" by Maurice Ravel, a piece inspired by the passionate fiddling of Hungarian gypsies.
"It's a fiendishly tough piece with enormously difficult make-or-break, hit-or-miss harmonics for the violinist," says Love. "Thankfully, our soloist makes and hits. She's very gifted."
Sunday's concert will begin with Serge Prokofiev's "Overture on Hebrew Themes," a 1919 work born in New York City, where an ensemble of Jewish musicians asked the visiting composer to arrange some Hebraic melodies for string quartet and solo clarinet.
The miniaturized version emerged with such personality that Prokofiev set it for full orchestra, with the clarinet retaining a prominent role. Principal clarinetist Karen Hopkinson, one of the local ensemble's most adept players, will handle the solo duties.
Concluding the program will be the ever-propulsive, bursting-at-the-seams Seventh Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven.
"Nature would burst should she attempt to produce nothing save Beethovens," wrote composer Robert Schumann, and the bustling, thumping hyperactivity of this 1812 symphony proves Schumann correct every time we hear it played.
Love says, "We gravitate more toward rhythm than we do to anything else in today's musical culture, and that might help explain why this incredible symphony continues to be so popular."
Tickets for this program are available at Music and Arts Center in Ellicott City, and at the Columbia Association Member Service Center in Columbia. Prices are $12 for adults and $9 for seniors and students. Group discounts are available.
Information: 410-381-2004, or the orchestra on the Web, www.columbiaorchestra.org.