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Concerto Winner Wei Wei Le to be Featured Performer in Oberlin Orchestra Concert, Friday, December 10, at 8 p.m., in Finney Chapel

Story by Claire Chase

 

 

 

The Oberlin Orchestra, under the direction of Paul Polivnick, will present its final performance of the season on Friday, December 10, at 8 p.m., in Finney Chapel. The program will offer Carl Nielsen's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and Ralph Vaughan-Williams' A London Symphony No.2 . The concert will showcase the work of Chinese violinist Wei Wei Le, who was selected as one of seven winners from a field of 22 finalists in the 1999-2000 Oberlin Concerto Competition for her performance of the Nielsen Concerto. The concert is free and open to the public.

Senior Violinist Wei Wei Le was born in Shanghai and emigrated to the United States in 1996 upon graduating from the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surry, England. She has made concerto appearances with the Royal Philharmonic, the Queensland Symphony, the Tianjing Symphony Orchestra, and has given critically-acclaimed recitals in Australia, Bermuda, China, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Israel, Switzerland, Taiwan and Thailand. Le was a prize winner in the 1991 Kloster Schontel International Competition, the 1992 Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition, the 1996 Starling International Competition, and the 1997 National Young Artists Competition in Midland-Odessa. Le is currently a student of Oberlin professors Roland and Almita Vamos. Mrs. Vamos describes Le as "one of the most phenomenal talents I have ever come across. She is awesome, and amazing!"

"Wei Wei is a first-class violinist," adds Oberlin Orchestra Music Director Paul Polivnick. "This promises to be a very fine performance. The Nielsen is a fantastic piece, though it's not played as frequently as the large romantic concertos of Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. It takes a committed and imaginative soloist to bring out all the lyricism and poignancy of its romantic nature."

"I'm very excited to perform the Nielsen Concerto with orchestra," remarks Le. "This piece has many different flavors, styles, and a nationalistic flair. It's very much a piece for orchestra as well as for violin, and it's inspiring to be in the middle of all of the colors and shades of the orchestration. It should be a great experience."

Written in 1911 and given its premiere the following year, the Nielsen Violin Concerto is divided into four movements, paired in such a way that two primary sections comprise the work. "The first movement is a long operatic recitative of sorts," explains Polivnick, "and begins with an accompanied violin cadenza. The harmonic language is tonal, but totally unique--Nielsen discovered new ways to use the same chords that had been used for centuries. There's a wonderful folk quality about his music, which conjures images of Scandinavian dance. The last movement has a devilish quality thrown in with all the pyrotechnic passagework. The balance of elements overall compositionally is truly great."

The London Symphony No. 2 was written in 1912 by the supreme English symphonist of and defender of national art, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams described his Symphony No. 2 in these words: "There are four movements...A slow prelude (Lento) leads to a vigorous Allegro (risoluto), which may perhaps suggest the noise and hurry of London...The slow movement (Lento) has been called 'Bloomsburg Square on a November Afternoon.' This may serve as a clue to the music...The third movement (Nocturne) is in the form of a scherzo. The hearer should imagine himself standing on Westminster Embankment at night, surrounded by the distant sounds of the Strand. At the end of the finale (Maestoso alla marcia) comes a suggestion of the noise and fever of the first movement--this time much subdued--then the Westminster Chimes are heard once more; on this follows an Epilogue."

"This symphony is an appropriate piece for the holidays, as it contains direct references to winter with the use of sleigh bells, brass chorales, and moments of grand ceremonial coronation," remarks Polivnick. "It was written as an homage to the city of London, and recalls the work of great British composers, writers and artists. The overall spirit of the work is cheerful, with points of struggle which are ultimately overcome. We've had an unusually short rehearsal period for this particular concert, but it is a marvelous piece, and I've enjoyed working with the orchestra on it. Together with the Nielsen, which programs very nicely with the Vaughan Williams, this promises to be a great concert."

About the Oberlin Concerto Competition

Each fall, Conservatory students compete for a few hotly-contested spots on the Oberlin Orchestra and Oberlin Chamber Orchestra's rosters. For the 1999-2000 competition, seven winners were selected from 22 finalists. In addition to Wei Wei Le, winners included David Bowlin, a senior violinist from Moline, Illinois; Liz Freivogel, a double degree junior violist from Kirkwood, Maryland; Cathryn Lai, a senior pianist from Greensboro, North Carolina; Eric Lamb, a senior flutist from Detroit, Michigan; Erika Tolano, an Artist Diploma soprano from Australia; and Felix Petit, a junior violinist from Caracas, Venezuela.

Judges for the competition included faculty members Ryan Anthony, David Bow, James Caldwell, Alvin Chow, Gerald Crawford, Stephen Moore, Paul Polivnick, Peter Rejto and Michael Haber. The jury represented one faculty member from each performance division, one faculty member from a non-performance division, and an outside adjudicator.

"The overall performance level was extraordinarily high," says David Boe, jurist and professor of organ and harpsichord. "My perception of this competition is that the quality, which has always been impressive, has grown even more compelling over the past number of years. Selecting a small group of winners from an outstanding field makes the work of the judges very difficult. I'm sure the judges agree that many more of our finalists would have been fully deserving of performing as soloists with the orchestra."

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