By Bryce Christensen
As lovers of classical music have mourned the recent passing of major luminaries—including Claudio Abbado, Licia Albanese, Christopher Hogwood, Lorin Maazel, Stephen Paulus, and José Feghali—they have reflected on how much their lives were enriched by the priceless gifts these individuals brought into the world and on how quickly such gifts passed from us. Never abundant, musical talent counts as a perishable cultural resource, one that must be renewed generation to generation, or it will be lost orever. No matter how brightly they may shine today, today’s stars of classical music must—one by one—blink out, leaving the musical heavens depressingly dark unless they are replaced by rising new
Fortunately, the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) annually hosts a concert-- the Roy L. Halversen Young Artists Concert--especially devoted to recognizing and fostering new talent. Held at the Heritage Center on February 19th, this year’s Halversen Concert—celebrating the theme of “Harmonious Ambassadors”—added fresh luster to the glowing reputation of this concert tradition, allowing a delighted audience to thrill to the budding talents of young musicians who will help fill the void left by the passing of figures such as Abbado, Albanese, Hogwood, Maazel, Paulus, and Feghali.
After OSU President Harold Shirley had welcomed the audience to this special concert to showcasing budding talent, a radiant Tanisa Crosby took the stage as the first of the five featured young musicians. As OSU Assistant Conductor Carylee Zwang took the baton to lead the orchestra, Crosby demonstrated her exceptional skills as a the soloist for the first movement of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G. Coaxing from her instrument a delightful stream of liquid sonorities, Crosby performed with an impressive confidence, ably engaging the orchestra in a sustained dialogue, ably interpreted both pensive and propulsive passages with self-possessed ease. A Southern Utah University student pursuing a double major in English and Music, Crosby will thrill music lovers for many years to come.
An even younger soloist, the fifteen-year-old violist Madison Marshall took the stage as OSU Conductor Xun Sun took over directing responsibilities for Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra by Alan Shulman. Belying her age, Marshall displayed a mature interpretive mastery of this many-hued number.
From the opening strains of autumnal mellowness, Marshall seamless accelerated into passages of fitful tension, only to finally melt into the sweetly mournful melancholy of the conclusion. With the assurance of a seasoned concert soloist, Marshall distilled the essence of each melodic movement. Listeners could only marvel at the virtuosity of an instrumentalist with her best years still before her!
As Sun yielded the Baton back to Zwang, Madison Davis took the limelight as the only vocalist featured on this evening of young musical talent. A mezzo soprano, Davis poured forth a compelling torrent of passion in her powerful rendition of Gluck’s Che Faro Senza Euridice. Fully into her mythical character,
Davis conveyed all the wrenching pathos of eternal separation from a lover. A sophomore music major at SUU, Davis gave the audience reason to hope to hear her not many years hence singing from the As the last pre-intermission soloist, another fifteen-year-old prodigy, violinist Janna Ostler, took center stage, as Sun again took his place on the conductor’s platform for Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in G Major. The concert may have been an event for mere mortals, but this number conveyed something of the celestial rhythms of a heavenly court filled with pirouetting angels! And it was largely because of Ostler’s instrumental magic—a magic of almost unearthly and spritely joyfulness--that listeners felt they had been transported to the empyrean. As she worked her instrumental enchantment on the audience,
Ostler herself seemed to fall beneath the spell, clearly enjoying every lustrous note she drew from her violin. A phenomenon as a teenager, this talented young lady will no doubt continue to carry her listeners—and herself--into realms of rare happiness in future decades.
After the intermission, it was Jacob Lee who commanded the attention of the audience as a youthful musical artist. But Lee was an invisible artist. For unlike the other four featured Halversen musicians, Lee did not perform. Rather, he composed. Lee’s composition the Casey Jones Overture received its world premiere at this concert under the masterful baton of Xun Sun. A marvelous evocation of the romance and legendry of 19th-century railroading, this number breathed some of the fire and smoke of the great coal-burning steam locomotives that conquered the wide open spaces of frontier America. But it was not just restive energy that animated this remarkably strong youthful composition; Lee captured something of the majesty of mechanized movement along a burgeoning America’s dynamic new rail arteries and something of the splendor of the breathtaking vistas that railroad pioneers opened up. Though still unknown to most of the world of classical music, Lee left a mark on listeners convinced that they had heard the vibrant work of a composer just embarking on a career sure to produce many more comparable—and even greater—works.
With the Casey Jones Overture, the exciting parade of rising new talent ended. But the musical excitement did not. Far from it. Under the vigorous baton of Adam Lambert, the orchestra
next performed the Sabre Dance, a kinetic fragment of Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane. The tarantella-like cadence of this number demanded frenetic musicianship from the orchestra, but conductor and
instrumentalists were equal to their task, carrying the audience away in a pulse-pounding frenzy that swept the mesmerized audience along in a St. Vitus dance of pure delirium.
And the audience could only marvel that after playing such a wild and exhausting penultimate number, the orchestra could still find ample energy for its finale: Khachaturian’s carnivalesque Waltz. Perhaps it took the spirit of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras a couple days to reach Cedar City. But reach here it did, as instrumentalists donned carnival masks as they dove into the festive fun. (His own antic spirits running high, conductor Adam Lambert wore his mask backward, allowing its mischievous eyeholes to look out at the audience from the back of his head.) The masks did not seem to interfere with the musicians’ joyfully performing their music, which they rendered in the high glee of slightly intoxicated revelers! How could the audience resist such a fantastic romp? No one tried.
Indeed, when Khachaturian’s last celebratory notes had died away, the audience rose to its feet to applaud the conductors, the orchestra, and especially the youthful new musicians brought into view by this concert.Yes, even the greatest stars must eventually pass from the glorious skies of classical music. But this enchanting evening gave all present hope that the passing years will bring into those skies new constellations of talented stars—including the five gifted artists who took the stage at concert’s end for a well-deserved special bow.
All who attended this concert left with renewed hopes for the future of classical music in Cedar City, and beyond, and with renewed appreciation for the conductors, for the musicians, and for the sponsors (June Thorley and the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation) who nurture such hopes.
|Madison Marshall, viola: Janna Ostler, violin; Madison Davis, mezzo soprano; Tanisa Crosby, flute; and Jacob Lee, composer.|