Connies Pitted Against Each Other in Competition
It isn’t often that Oberlin students compete openly against each, but on Saturday, Oct. 13, the Conservatory’s annual Concerto Competition finals broke with that tradition. On this day, graduating students in the Conservatory competed against each other from 9:00 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. with a break for lunch. Each participant performed for 15 minutes.
The 20 finalists represented the Conservatory’s four divisions of performance majors: keyboard, strings, brass/woodwinds and voice. To make it to the finals, students had to pass a preliminary round judged by Conservatory professors in their respective departments. Outside judges were brought in for the final round to select a winner from each division. The keyboard division was represented by five pianists; the string division by three cellists, two violinists and one harpist; the woodwind and brass division by two trumpet players, an oboeist, clarinetist, bassoonist and trombonist; the voice department by a soprano, baritone and bass baritone. Composers represented ranged from Franz Liszt to Alberto Ginastera to Carl Nielsen.
The Dean’s office posted the names of the winners that evening. Pianist Nina Zhou won with Prokofiev’s First Piano Concerto; voice major Jeffrey Hill wowed the judges with his performance of a set of Schubert lieder; clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan won with a concerto by Nielsen; and cellist Rachel Desoer triumphed with the first Shostakovich cello concerto.
There is certainly a lot of pressure on the performers, as much or more than any other moment in their performance careers at Oberlin. How do musicians deal with that stress? As one participant said, “Just go out there and play like you own the stage…the rest is up to the judges. If they like it, it’s your lucky day…”
Every finalist played well, and as a whole, the competition proved very entertaining. Because of what was at stake, there was a greater intensity than there often is in a typical student performance; the competition is a good time to hear Oberlin students at their best. Also, hearing such a broad range of compositions and instruments keeps things interesting.
Throughout the competition, which was open to the public, students and faculty members came to Finney Chapel to see their friends or students perform. Some people barely resisted the urge to clap — clapping in such a setting is not customary.
During the competition, musicians perform with a piano accompanist playing a reduction of the orchestral score. The four winners will each perform with the Oberlin Orchestra during the 2007-2008 school year.