RED BANK, NJ - Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011 was cold and windy but music lovers filled the Count Basie theatre in Red Bank, NJ as The Monmouth Symphony Orchestra with Conductor Roy Gussman began its 62nd Anniversary Season.
Who could resist the program of Mozart and Tchaikovsky, masters of melody, and featuring sixteen-year-old Kevin Chen, winner of the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Concerto Competition 2010?
Music affects the brain of the listener, the musician and the composer. Our moods change with the music. This was clear in today's program.
The program opened with Mozart's Overture to "Die Zauberflote" (The Magic
Flute) 1791. Mozart was familiar with theatrical musical productions, had written music for singers and actors (which we call today Broadway's musical
theatre.) The melody is familiar as the flutes alternate with violins, brass and full orchestra. The music is lively and puts us in a good mood.
Next on the program was the Piano Concerto No. 2 in D Minor Op. 23 by Edward MacDowell. 1886
Composer Edward MacDowell was the first American composer to achieve international acclaim. Reared by a Quaker family in Manhattan's Lower East Side, he began piano lessons at age 8; as a teenager he studied with Venezuelan pianist, Teresa Carreno, and dedicated the Concerto to her.
He won an invitation to visit Weimar in 1881 where he performed his own First Piano Concerto (Op. 15) for Liszt, who promoted the performance and publication of MacDowell's early works.
In 1884 MacDowell married Marian Nevins from Connecticut, a former piano student. In 1888 they moved to Boston where he wrote the Second Piano Concerto which he performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and in New York. It became his most highly acclaimed work. Over the next 8 years he produced many works for voice, keyboard and orchestra.
In 1896 Columbia University requested MacDowell to found a department of music. He created a new idea of interchangeable artistic ideas which resulted in academic political infighting, bad publicity and his insomnia.
The effects were long term.
However, that year the MacDowells bought a farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where in a peaceful setting Edward wrote some of his best music.
Unfortunately the negative emotions MacDowell experienced in 1896 eventually took its toll on his brain. He regressed to a childlike state in 1905, died in 1908 at age 46.
In 1907 the farm became the MacDowell Colony where many artists of different disciplines could work. The "Peterborough Idea" was nationally known and funded. It flourished. Among the thousands of works produced on the campus were "Porgy and Bess" "Our Town" "Billy the Kid" and Leonard Bernstein's "Mass." In 2007 the MacDowell Colony celebrated its centennial with a yearlong celebration.
Guest Artist Pianist Kevin Jang
Kevin grew up and lives in Edison, New Jersey. His dad is a computer technician and network administrator, Mom is a full time homemaker.
At first Kevin wasn't interested in music. However after his first piano lesson at age four, "I marveled at how such a minimal action of pressing down a piano key could produce such a beautiful sound. I wanted to harness that power." At four he started his musical education in a musical readiness class at Metuchen, NJ at the Woodbridge Academy of Music with Michele Tokar. His parents, relatives, friends and everyone who listened to his music encouraged him. "Without them I wouldn't be able to share my playing with anyone."
Studying with Chiu-Tze Lin helped him prepare to audition for Juilliard Pre-College on scholarships from the Heckhersher Foundation and Gordon Roberts. He still studies with his current piano teacher, Susan Starr, who "pushes me to succeed."
He won his first piano competition at 7. However, since five he's been performing publicly in concerts and televised broadcasts. He made his orchestra debut in 2003 at 9. Since then he's been the piano soloist with various orchestras worldwide. Kevin was awarded "Artist of the Season" by the Edison Arts Society in 2005 and was featured in "The Arts in Edison"
cable TV program. He is also a grant recipient from the Children's Foundation for the Arts since 2007. He has performed at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, the Lied Center of Kansas, The NJ State Theatre and Steinway Hall in New York City.
Kevin says, "Music is a way for me to express myself. I'm not very good at speaking so when I play piano I can make my thoughts come across."
He's not nervous before a performance, he's excited. "The adrenaline rush sometimes makes me waver in the first few notes but I recover and give it my all."
Kevin certainly does. He demonstrates control over the piano, his fingers flying over the keys, creating marvelous trills and majestic chords. "It takes love for the music, hard work and dedication, and a little bit of luck," he says, but he's determined and passionate, Also an optimist. "I would love to become a concert pianist or piano teacher. I hope to share music with everyone in the world." As a volunteer he frequently entertains at nursing homes.
The program ended with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E Minor. Op. 64 a joy to listen to. The audience gave the Monmouth Symphony Orchestra, Roy Gussman and Kevin a standing ovation.