Each fall, Oberlin Conservatory seniors have the opportunity to compete in the annual Concerto Competition, with the top four winners featured in the spring as soloists with the Oberlin orchestras.
This year, those feature spots have been earned by pianist Annie Qin in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18; violinist Matthew Cone in Sergey Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 63; soprano Kylie Buckham in Joseph Haydn’s Berenice, che fai?; and oboist Jonathan Kronheimer in Walter Aschaffenburg's Concerto for Oboe.
The students will present their winning pieces in concerts with the Oberlin Orchestra and Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Raphael Jiménez. Performances will take place in Finney Chapel on April 6 (Annie Qin), April 14 (Matthew Cone), April 28 (Kylie Buckham), and May 5 (Jonathan Kronheimer).
Conductor Raphael Jiménez shares, “Our conservatory students are extremely supportive of each other, and one cannot find a better example than in the performances of the concerto competition winners. When preparing these concerts, I can feel how every member of the orchestra is happy and proud to be part of this special day in the performance career of one of their classmates.”
The competition was open to all fourth- and fifth-year performance majors, as well as artist diploma students. The first rounds were adjudicated by Conservatory faculty, while the public final round was adjudicated by a guest jury.
Final round judges included pianist Ilya Poletaev of McGill University’s Schulich School of Music; violinist Kevork Mardirossian of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music; baritone Randall Scarlata of the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University; and bassoonist Christopher Sales of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
About the winners
Pianist Annie Qin is a student of Professor Angela Cheng. During her undergraduate years at Oberlin she has performed in the 2020 Danenberg Honors Recital, won the Conservatory’s Rudolf Serkin Prize in May 2021, and also received third prize in the Peter Takacs Beethoven Piano Competition in November 2021. That same year, Qin performed Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto with Xiamen Song & Dance Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Xiaotang Xia and soon after, she was awarded first prize at Beijing International Piano Festival Competition. This year, Qin received the second prize at the 7th Paderewski International Piano Competition and was a finalist in the New York International Piano Competition. She has performed a range of repertoire from works with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble to the “Back to Bach” Project. Reflecting on her performance of the Rachmaninoff concerto, Qin shares, “I think my overall perception of the piece is changing as time passes. Now I’m more fascinated with its huge emotional depth and the imaginative musical language.”
Matthew Cone is currently a fourth-year violin student at Oberlin Conservatory, studying with Professor Sibbi Bernhardsson. Cone began his violin studies with Cindy Lin at the age of 5, and has since worked with George Taylor, viola professor at the Eastman School of Music, and Renée Jolles, a professor of violin, also at Eastman. An avid chamber and orchestral musician, he has attended numerous summer festivals including Bravo Workshop, Credo, Kinhaven Music School, Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Castleman Quartet Program, Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Heifetz International Music Institute Ashkenasi-Kirshbaum Chamber Music Seminar. Over the past few years, he has had the opportunity to work with artists including Peter Zazofsky, Dennis Kim, Charles Castleman, Augustin Hadelich, Paul Huang, Desirée Ruhstrat, Rachel Barton Pine, Almita Vamos, Grigory Kalinovsky, and Shmuel Ashkenasi. In 2017, he earned third place in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Young Artist Violin Competition. During the summer of 2019, he performed Tchaikovsky’s Meditation with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. As Cone prepares for his date with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, he feels, “performing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 is incredibly challenging, in terms of both stamina and technique, so I've been learning how to manage my energy during performance.”
Soprano Kylie Buckham is a student of Oberlin voice professor Kendra Colton, and has participated and placed first in several district and regional NATS competitions and the ENKOR International Music Competition. Outside of Oberlin, Buckham has performed as a chorus member in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with both the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and has covered and performed the title role in Cendrillon with the Chicago Summer Opera Theater. Highlights of her undergraduate work at Oberlin includes performances of the role of Alice 2 in the Oberlin Opera Commissioning Program world-premiere performances of Alice Tierney in January 2023. Buckham has performed as a soloist in Francis Poulenc’s Gloria as well as the oratorios Elijah, by Felix Mendelssohn, and Handel’s Messiah. Buckham has sung in the Oberlin College Choir, Chamber Singers, and Musical Union, and has also performed several roles in Oberlin Opera Theater’s main stage productions including Elisetta in Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto (2022), Catherine in Offenbach’s Le mariage aux lanternes (2022), and in the chorus for both Acis and Galatea (2021) and Candide (2023). Buckham is enthralled with Haydn’s Berenice, che fai?, saying, “The variety of emotion within the cavatina and cabaletta, the recitative, and the language itself was something I felt needed to be shared.”
Oboist Jonathan Kronheimer is a student of Professor Robert Walters at Oberlin. Kronheimer grew up near Boston, and began playing oboe at age 8. After working with Jane Harrison at the All Newton Music School for 10 years, he began studying with Mark McEwen of the Boston Symphony. Kronheimer participated in the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America during their 2019 season, and is also a former member of the Boston Youth Symphony. Kronheimer is excited to present a piece of Oberlin history, explaining, “Walter Aschaffenburg ’51 was an Oberlin alumnus, and the composition professor at Oberlin when he wrote it. He wrote the concerto for James Caldwell, the oboe professor here at the time, who premiered it in Finney Chapel—the exact venue where it will be performed by the Oberlin Orchestra this spring.”
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