That's all a classical music nut needs to hear to know how a performance of the Jean Sibelius Violin Concert in D Minor will evolve. Those three notes, a dissonance, a step and a perfect interval, suspended above a genteel string ostinato are either metaphysical or painful — there's no middle ground here.
It's a risk, one that 25-year-old Chinese violinist Xiao Wang faced head on at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artists Competition, which is part of the Texas Music Festival. He was one of seven students enrolled in the month-long summer program who vied for a solo spot at a June 23 orchestra concert and a guest appearance at Gewandhaus zu Leipzig concert hall in Germany with the Akademisches Orchester Leipzig in 2013.
Such a gamble paid off. Wang earned the first prize, the Audience Choice Award and $700 in cash at the finals concert Sunday at the Moores School of Music. Wang will tackle Sibelius' thrilling work.
"While the seven contestants were all impressive in a variety of ways, Xiao Wang clearly stood out because his presentation was the most polished; his technique was superb; his musicality, utterly convincing; and his tone, gorgeous," David Ashley White, competition judge and director of the Moores School of Music, told CultureMap.
"Xiao Wang clearly stood out because his presentation was the most polished; his technique was superb; his musicality, utterly convincing; and his tone, gorgeous."
"He appears to be on the cusp of a major career. The piece he played, the first movement of the Violin Concerto by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, was a perfect vehicle to showcase all he had to offer, which was considerable. In fact, I've not heard this particular music played so well in many years."
Wang is a student at the Manhattan School of Music in the studio of Lucie Robert, who's a long standing faculty member at Texas Music Festival (TMF). Robert also taught violinist Dan Zhu, a TMF alum who won the competition in 2000 and who's the featured soloist on the June 30 orchestra concert. Zhu will perform Korngold's Violin Concerto in D Major.
Hopefuls at this year's competition finals presented music that is rarely heard. Among the selections were a clarinet concerto by Finnish composer Bernhard Crusell and Schelomo by Ernest Bloch.
"It is always interesting what a young musician chooses to perform in a competition," White said. "Some are good choices, some are not. On Sunday, we heard mostly good choices."
Other notable finalists were violinist Carmen Abelson, flutist Kayla Burggraf and cellist Hellen Weberpall, students at the Shepherd School of Music; clarinetist Eric Fung and violist Jen-Hsuan Liao, both students at Mannes College, The New School for Music; and bassoonist Allison Nicotera from The Juilliard School.