Winter Term: Recording the First Movement of Stravinsky Violin Concerto with Piano

September 10, 2020
Yvonne Gay
Asian girl in red dress plays a violin.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Peiwen Su '21

Fourth-year violin major Peiwen Su took on the ambitious project to learn and record the entire Stravinsky Violin Concerto in D major. She was guided through the process by current and former teachers, and even benefitted from a new connection facilitated by her Oberlin professor. The project was both challenging and inspirational—and demonstrated to Su what is possible in this new reality.

To prepare for the recording while back at home in Taiwan, Su studied with her teacher Marilyn McDonald, professor of violin and baroque violin at Oberlin Conservatory. McDonald made the introduction for Su to her former student, Eliot Heaton ’13, now concertmaster of the Michigan Opera Theatre, Des Moines Metro Opera, and the Saginaw Bay Symphony. Like McDonald, Heaton worked to “increase the ideas” in Su’s music. 

“At first, I thought it was difficult to convey my musical opinions over Zoom due to limitations with computer sound quality,” admits Su. “However, professors still can give precise comments, which helps me immediately create musical ideas, and makes me realize which is the best way for me to perform.” 

While in Taiwan this summer, Su also reconnected over several lessons with her former violin professor, Yu-Wen Chen. She had the opportunity to work with a collaborative pianist, where rehearsing with a face mask brought its own challenges—breathing deeply for upwards of 20 minutes during a performance made for rather hot rehearsals. 

The recording was made in the church hall in her hometown in Taiwan.

“Overall, the experience was actually special and brings positive energy to me,” says Su, who will be taking classes at Oberlin this fall. “Due to the pandemic, most of my summer festivals were cancelled. Many difficult situations appeared. I stayed at home but still did my best in my approach to the music. And, I completed all the work. The project motivated me, inspired me to challenge myself, and made my summer meaningful!”


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