Tuesday, April 7, 2009

MSO Young Artist Concerto Competition

Last month, I had the honor of being selected as a judge for the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra's Young Artist Concerto Competition. The competition selects one teenage soloist and offers a small scholarship to the final three contestants and, for the winner, a chance to perform a concerto with the orchestra.

As a judge, I was in esteemed company. There were three judges in all, including myself and pianist, producer, conductor and university professor John Balme, who is known for having led the Wagner "Ring" cycles in Boston and NYC in the 1980s and also served as General Director of the Boston Lyric Opera and Music Director of the Liederkranz Foundation. The third was Dr. Arthur Topilow, an active and dedicated musician with a great performance resume in addition to his day job as the Director of Hematology/Medical Oncology at the Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

The competition itself was funded this year by a grant from Herbert Axelrod, a benefactor for a great deal of culture in this area. Unfortunately Axelrod's generosity and interest in philanthropy has been overshadowed in the press in recent years by tax troubles and by the brouhaha stirred up with his sale to the NJSO of a collection of rare, vintage stringed instruments.

The competition contestants were all worthy of praise. I would have been honored to have any of them as a student. As a result, the choice of a winner was more difficult than we three judges had expected, as MSO director Roy Gussman pointed out to the entrants during the announcement of the winner.

Named to third place was the remarkable cellist Sydney Lee, a 12-year-old from Oakland, N.J. Second place was Su Hyun Park, a junior at Paramus Catholic High School, who wowed us with a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, one of the most difficult works in the solo violin literature. First place went to pianist Sue-jin Jung, a junior at Chatham High School, for her performance of the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3.

Congratulations to all the winners and entrants. They did a fine job. I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this competition. It was a wonderful to hear such talented young people give it their all. We look forward to hearing Jung perform the Beethoven with the MSO in the coming season.


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