Whenever I despair about the future of classical music, along comes something like The Granada Music & Arts Conservatory and its 27th annual Young Soloists Showcase concert, which plays at 2 p.m. Sunday at The Granada, and I know that my despair is totally irrelevant, not to mention presumptuous.
As long as outfits like the Conservatory — founded by Lana Bodnar (our own answer to Eleanor of Acquitaine) — can come up with seven young stars a year, willing to forego their networking and Web-surfing and soccer and chai lattés and what not, to lock themselves in a room and practice-practice-practice, then the future will pretty much take care of itself.
The Santa Barbara area students studying at the Conservatory audition throughout the year for an opportunity to solo with a professional orchestra each spring. Only a handful of students are selected, and this year they are seven, ages 13 to 18: John Etsell, Michael Sikich, Daria Etezadi and Grace Stanton on the piano and Joshelle Conley, Camille Miller and Sofiya Prykhitko, violin.
Conducting this year’s showcase will be Gary Sheldon, principal conductor of the Miami City Ballet and 2010 winner of the American Prize for Conducting in the Professional Orchestra Division.
The concert will also include brief performances by the Conservatory’s Virtuoso Strings (Vivaldi: “Concerto Grosso in d minor, Opus 3, No. 11, Largo e Spicatto, Allegro”; and the tradition Russian song “The Felt Boots,” arranged by Natalya Klimov), the Junior Virtuosi (Vivaldi: “Concerto Grosso in d minor, Opus 3, No. 11, Allegro”), and the Junior Choir (“If You Love Me,” by Marguerite Mannot; piano by Trinh La). The incomparable Nina Bodnar directs both the Virtuoso Strings and the Junior Virtuosi; Klimov directs the Junior Choir.
The Young Solists program includes the Allegro from Mozart’s “Concerto No. 17 in G-Major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 453” (Etezadi, piano); Beethoven’s “Concerto No. 2 in Bb-Major for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 19” (Allegro con brio, Stanton, piano; Adagio, Rondo, Etsell, piano); Henryk Wieniawski’s “Concerto No. 2 in d-minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 22” (Allegro con fuoco, Conley, violin); Charles-Auguste de Beriot’s “Scene de Ballet” (Prykhitko, violin); Édouard Lalo’s “Symphonie Espagnole” (Allegro non troppo, Miller, violin); and Rachmaninoff’s romantic extravaganza, the “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” (Sikich, piano).
A very satisfying program, you will agree — just the sort of pieces you would expect to hear from young virtuosi out to win the hearts and minds of an audience. Mozart and Vivaldi are always welcome. Lalo and Wieniawski persist in hanging in there, a tribute to their undying charm. It is hard to imagine any young virtuoso pianist wishing to establish an enduring emotional bond with the listener who did not keep at least one concerted work by Rachmaninoff in his or her repertory. “The Rhapsody” is one of the shortest, far less of a killer than the “Third Piano Concerto,” and you only have to be really on your toes in the haunting, exquisite 18th variation, lest a clinker break its amazing spell. The Beethoven “Second Concerto” is an off-beat choice, but a perfect one, under the circumstances. This concert is about youth, and this concerto is youth made manifest. It laughs, it dances, it sings, it prances; when it slows down to be serious, it hangs its heart on its sleeve and sings of a utopia of hopeless melancholy. One shouldn’t really be allowed to have favorites among Beethoven’s concerti, but …
The Young Soloists Showcase performs at 2 p.m. Sunday at The Granada, 1214 State St. Tickets are $25 (patrons); $20 (general admission); $10 (students/seniors); and free for children 12 and under. Click here to purchase tickets online or call 805.899.2222. Tickets also are available at The Granada box office.
Click here for more information about The Granada Music & Arts Conservatory.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at email@example.com.