Concerto Competition Winners
Sun, Oct. 1, 2023, 6:00 pm
David Rentz, music director & conductor
(1841 – 1904)
Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53
- Allegro ma non troppo
Pablo de Sarasate
(1844 – 1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20
(1835 – 1921)
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33
- Tempo primo
Presented by Junior Chamber Music and the California Association of Professional Music Teachers District VIII-Orange County Chapter
Ludwig van Beethoven
(1770 – 1827)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭major, Op. 19
- Allegro con brio
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
(1840 – 1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B♭minor, Op. 23
- Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito
Meet the Artists
Conductor and Music Director
OCofOC Music Director and conductor
Learn More About David
David Rentz is Professor of Music at Chaffey College, where he heads the choral and vocal music programs and teaches music theory. He is also Adjunct Professor of Music at Claremont Graduate University, where he supervises masters and doctoral programs in choral and orchestral conducting, and Co-Director of Music and Fine Arts at Claremont United Church of Christ. He has taught and conducted choral ensembles at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Yale University, and, most recently, Pomona and Scripps Colleges. He is also a founding co-conductor of C3LA (Contemporary Choral Collective of Los Angeles) and served as music director of the Orange County Symphony from 2011 to 2016.
From 2005 to 2010, he lived in New York City, where he worked as choral director at The Brearley School, a K-12 girls preparatory school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. A busy freelancer, he was also assistant conductor of the critically-acclaimed New Amsterdam Singers and a principal conductor and founding member of C4: the Choral Composer/Conductor Collective, a collectively-run ensemble devoted to performing works written in the last twenty-five years. David’s love of early music led him to found and direct Guildsingers, a professional vocal ensemble specializing in 15th-century Franco-Flemish repertoire.
David received his B.Mus. summa cum laude from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he was a Mylonas Scholar in the Humanities, inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. He earned his M.M at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Beverly Taylor), and received his M.M.A. and D.M.A. from the Yale University School of Music (Marguerite Brooks and Simon Carrington), where he was co-director of the University Chapel Choir and a member of the internationally-renowned Yale Schola Cantorum. He has received fellowships and grants from the Yale alumniVentures program and the National Endowment for the Humanities and, in 2015, was named guest professor at Xiamen University (China). In demand as an adjudicator and clinician, he has served in those capacities for the Lansum International Choral Competition, the Claremont College Orchestra Concert Orchestra Concerto Competition, the Oremor Choral Competition, the Chaffey Joint Union High School District Choral Festival, the Southern California Vocal Association, and many others.
First Place winner JCM Category C (21 & under)
Learn More About Sophie
At seventeen years old, Sophie Bell has been playing the violin since the second grade. She is currently the concertmaster of the CSUN (California Southern University Northridge) Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and also previously served as concertmaster for SCSBOA (Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association). After her three years in SCSBOA, she began to participate in the All State program as well. As a longtime member of Junior Chamber Music, she finds a great interest in chamber music. After participating in trios, quartets, and duets, she has developed a wide musical range.
Sophie made her first concerto debut at age fourteen, performing Mozart’s Fifth Concerto for AVSOMC (Antelope Valley Symphony Orchestra and Master Chorale). Since then, she has also performed as soloist for PSYCO (Pasadena Summer Youth Chamber Orchestra) with the Bruch Concerto Third Movement. She has won first place in both the Gail Newby Concerto Competition and Bach Competition, second place in ASTA LA, and is a state finalist in the VOCE Competition. Recently, she won first place in the CSUN Youth Philharmonic Competition and third place in the Edith Knox Competition. Currently, she is studying under Linda Rose. In addition to music, Sophie enjoys playing with the family chickens and an endless amount of reading.
First Place winner CAPMT OC Category B (14 & under)
Learn More About Aaron
Aaron Liu, 14 years old, has been playing the violin since age 4. Currently, Aaron studies with teachers Yuki Mori and Min Jung Park, who were students of the legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz and are graduates of the Juilliard School.
Aaron has won numerous top prizes at various competitions including 1st prize at the Cecilia International Competition in Tokyo Japan, 1st place in the Concerto Competition of California Association of Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Orange County, 1st place in American String Teachers Association (ASTA) Southern California Finals, 1st place at the Musical Arts Competition of Orange County (MACOC) Stings Division, Grand Prize at Southwestern Youth Music Festival (SYMF) Stings Division, 1st place at the American Protégé International Concerto Competition, and Grand Prize at Satori Summer Music Festival Strings Contest. Aaron has been actively participating in chamber music and has won 1st place in the 2023 JCM Chamber Music Competition. In the past year, Aaron has collaborated with Southern California Philharmonic and Bellflower Symphony Orchestra.
Apart from music, Aaron enjoys photography, filmmaking, sports, and spending time with his family and cats.
First Place winner JCM Category B (14 & under)
Learn More About Ryan
Ryan Yang (13) is a 7th grader at Harvard-Westlake School. He started playing the cello at the age of 7 and currently studies with Dr. Benjamin Lash at Colburn School. For the past years, he has participated and won honors in numerous competitions. His first accomplishment was winning first place at the Korea Times Music Competition in 2018. Ryan was awarded the First Prize in the Los Angeles Violoncello Society Scholarship Audition and in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival’s Complete Works Audition. In March 2022, he won the First Prize at the Golden Classical Music Award and had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall. In July 2022, Ryan won First Place in both Open Baroque and Open Solo categories at Southwestern Youth Music Festival. Ryan is an active member of Junior Chamber Music and his 2021-2022 ensemble received first place in the Junior Chamber Music Competition, first place in the MTAC VOCE Regional Competition, and second place at the MTAC VOCE State Finals. His 2022 summer musical highlights include performing the world premiere of “Dhire-Dhire,” by composer Reena Esmail at the MTAC State Convention. Most recently, he won first place in his division at the JCM-CAPMT Young Musicians Concerto Competition and first prize in the 2023 CalASTA Los Angeles Bowed Strings Competition.
First Place winner CAPMT OC & JCM Category A (11 & under)
Learn More About Victoria
Victoria Sun is 11 years old. She learned the violin at the age of 4, but then everything changed when she saw the piano and thought, “Wow. I think it would be so cool pressing those white and black things down.” After wrangling with her mother for a year and a half, finally, at the age of 5½, she had her first piano lessons and found out that the piano is her passion. Since learning piano, Victoria has held a solo recital every year. She has participated in the MTAC Orange County Branch competition and won 1st prize in her age group 3 times. Victoria placed third in Los Angeles International Liszt Competition in 2022, and, most recently, won her division of the 2023 JCM/CAPMT Young Musicians Concerto Competition. Victoria is now studying piano with Myong Joo Lee, having previously studied under Joan Lai, Ning An, Dmitry Rachmanov, and Beatrice Long. Victoria not only enjoys playing the piano but is also very fond of coding and mathematics. She hopes to combine computers and piano in the future to create better music for everyone.
First Place winner CAPMT OC Cateogry C (21 & under)
Learn More About Helaine
Helaine Zhao was born and raised in Irvine, California. She started piano lessons at age 5, and currently studies with Mr. Rufus Choi at Salit Conservatory of Music.
Helaine has participated in numerous international, national, and regional performances and competitions. Most recently, she was selected into the MTAC Young Artist Guild, won 1st Prize CAPMT State Concerto and Contemporary Competition with Andrys Basten Award, 2nd Prize at the LA Liszt International Piano Competition and Best Mephisto Waltz Performance, 3rd Prize at the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, Best Contemporary Piece and Audience Choice Award at the Claudette Sorel Piano Competition. Helaine was named 2022 National YoungArts Merit Winner, 3-time State Winner at MTAC Piano Concerto and Solo Competition.
In addition, Helaine performed in various concert halls including Winifred Concert Hall, Segerstrom Concert Hall, Thayer Hall at Colburn School, and Walt Disney Concert Hall. She has also performed twice at Carnegie Hall, New York. She made her orchestral debut at the age of 10 and was also a featured piano soloist with the SYMF Orchestra, OCSA Symphony Orchestra, PA Foundation Orchestra, LA Youth Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, and the Redlands Bowl Symphony Orchestra.
Helaine enjoys serving others and has consistently performed at senior centers with Music Students’ Service League since 2012. Outside of music, Helaine enjoys reading books, writing, baking, hiking with her family, and playing with her pet birds.
Meet the Collective
David Rentz, Music Director
Seung-Jai Chung, Concertmaster
Wan-Chin Chang, Principal
Brigham Welch, Principal
Effy Huang, Principal
Ann M. Robinson Endowed Chair
Dzung Trung Nguyen
Suzanne La Roque
Chris Hornung, Principal
Danielle Leone, Principal
Angela Wells, principal
Leslie Schroerlucke, principal
Ellen B. Rice Memorial Chair
Tracey Siepser, principal
Brian Pham, principal
Andrew Rodman, principal
Bob Forte, principal
Young Musicians Concerto Competition Results
California Association of Professional Music Teachers, District VIII-Orange County Chapter (CAPMT OC)
Junior Chamber Music (JCM)
Orchestra Collective of Orange County (OCofOC)
CAPMT OC & JCM
Category A (11 & under)
student of Myong Joo Lee
student of Yuki Mori & Min Jung Park
student of Minji Noh
student of Emily Hung
Category B (14 & under)
student of Yuki Mori & Min Jung Park
student of Myong Joo Lee
student of Wendy Castille
Category C (21 & under)
student of Rufus Choi
student of Kiril Gliadkovsky
student of Mie Shirai
student of Kanae Komugi
Category B (14 & under)
student of Benjamin Lash
student of Ornela Ervin
student of Sam Fischer
Category C (21 & under)
student of Linda Rose
student of Clive Greensmith
student of Maggie Parkins
student of Joon Sung Jun
Meet the Co-Producers
California Association of Professional Music Teachers, District VIII-Orange County Chapter is the California State Affiliate of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). CAPMT is a 501(c)(3) non-profit music teachers organization of over 1,000 members, teaching in independent studios, private and public schools, conservatories, colleges, and universities throughout California. CAPMT offers a variety of state programs for the music student and education and professional opportunities for its members. CAPMT OC serves the Orange County area.
Junior Chamber Music provides professional chamber music experience to talented young musicians (instrumentalists and vocalists, ages 9-20) in Southern California. The program started in 2003 under the belief that one of the most powerful ways to learn and experience music is through the power of teamwork. The participants, chosen from annual auditions, are matched in small groups of 2 to 5 people according to their age, level and location. The groups receive coachings from JCM’s roster of world-class musicians in the area and participate in various workshops, tours and concerts.
Born September 8, 1841; Nelahozeves, Austrian Empire (now Czech Republic)
Died May 1, 1904 (aged 62); Prague
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53
I. Allegro ma non troppo
Dvořák once commented: “I myself have gone to the simple, half-forgotten tunes of the Bohemian peasants for hints in my most serious works. Only in this way can a musician express the true sentiment of his people.”
Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Concerto was commissioned by the great Austro-Hungarian violinist Joseph Joachim. Between 1879 and 1882, Dvořák and Joachim collaborated on the score. In November of 1882, Joachim performed the work for Dvořák at a private rehearsal, leading to final revisions by the composer. Joachim never played the Dvořák Violin Concerto at a public concert. The young Czech violinist František Ondříček was the soloist in the October 14, 1883 world premiere, at the National Theater in Prague.
Dvořák once commented: “I myself have gone to the simple, half-forgotten tunes of the Bohemian peasants for hints in my most serious works. Only in this way can a musician express the true sentiment of his people.” The Violin Concerto is a marvelous example of the great Czech composer incorporating the spirit of his homeland into a virtuoso concert work that has charmed violinists and audiences around the world.
The Concerto is in three movements. The first (Allegro, ma non troppo) opens with a bold orchestral fanfare, representing the first half of the movement’s central theme. The soloist enters with the theme’s graceful second portion. Throughout the movement, this theme alternates with various episodes.
Notes by Ken Meltzer
1879 at the age of 38
On October 14, 1883 in Prague by František Ondříček František Ondříček, with the National Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Mořic Anger.
Solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets (in A), 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Pablo de Sarasate
Born Mach 10, 1844; Pamplona, Spanish Empire
Died September 20, 1908 (aged 64); Biarritz, France
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20
Zigeunerweisen is a powerhouse of passion and technique, always an extremely challenging piece to play and a tremendous delight to hear.
Sarasate was a violin prodigy from Spain, and so tremendously gifted that he won the patronage of none other than his own Queen, Isabella II. That royal backing eventually allowed him to study in Paris, which his where is career and fame truly began. Sarasate began commissioning works from the great composers of his time, including Eduard Lalo, Max Bruch, Henri Wieniawski, and Camille Saint-Saëns. Saint-Saëns recalls the young Sarasate requesting his services as “a boy with such confidence and barely the outline of a mustache on his lip.” But Sarasate also composed works for himself, such as Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), unabashedly to show off his virtuosic prowess – encores, if you will, and they are always dazzling.
The Romani people, otherwise known as Gypsies, are one of Europe’s largest minorities, as they were in Sarasate’s times. Their culture greatly reveres music and their stunning prowess on the fiddle is legendary. Their collective history of persecution, as well as their vigorous embrace of life, is told in their music – of tragedy alongside fiery and rollicking dances. Such is the tenor of Sarasate’s most famous composition, Zigeunerweisen, written in 1878 to show off his own legendary violin skills.
Gypsy music was prominent in Spain during Sarasate’s life – in fact, the music and dance of flamenco is essentially Gypsy music. But for Zigeunerweisen, Sarasate was charmed by Western Europe’s current love affair with the Gypsy music from Hungary, thanks both to Brahms and Liszt. But the underlying tunes are really simply vehicles for virtuosic splendor. Sarasate unleashed a[…] fire spiccato (the bow bouncing on the strings), harmonics and artificial harmonics (where a string is pressed into the fret, then […] extremely high pitches), wild and fanciful […] and much more. Zigeunerweisen is a powerhouse of passion and technique, always an extremely challenging piece to play and a tremendous delight to hear.
Notes by Max Derrickson
1878 at the age of 34
1878 in Leipzig, Germany
Solo violin, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in F, 2 trumpets in F, timpani, triangle, and strings.
Born October 9, 1835; Paris, France
Died December 16, 1921 (aged 86); Algiers, Algeria
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33
III. Tempo primo
One Paris critic suggested that more works in the same vein would restore the prestige [Saint-Saëns] had lost with “his all-too-obvious divergence from classicism.
When Saint-Saëns wrote his first Cello Concerto in 1872, he was still a controversial name in conservative French musical circles, known as a modernist young radical and “prophet of Wagner.” He was nonetheless an established figure and had occupied this position for some time since he had made waves early as a child prodigy. Berlioz, his senior by more than 30 years and his ally in the artistic wars, once said that Saint-Saëns “knows everything, but lacks inexperience.” Saint-Saëns would live long enough to outlive his antagonists and himself become known in his later years as a reactionary in Parisian musical circles, which by then were witnessing Stravinsky’s ballets.
The Cello Concerto in A minor is an intriguing departure from the standard concerto form. It begins as a normal-enough sonata-allegro first movement; having the cello enter immediately was an unusual touch. In a more radical change, the movement simply slows to a halt during the development section and is then interrupted by what amounts to a separate movement, marked Allegretto con moto and in three-four time. It resembles a minuet enough that it might as well be one, and its sound, with strings muted and largely eschewing the bass register, has a music-box charm that contrasts markedly with the energetic Allegro, which returns and finishes as if nothing had happened. Saint-Saëns thus achieves a single movement that has the effect of the traditional fast-slow-fast three-movement concerto.
The Concerto was well-received from the start, particularly in France, where it was perceived as being free from Saint-Saëns’ unfortunate modernist tendencies. One Paris critic suggested that more works in the same vein would restore the prestige he had lost with “his all-too-obvious divergence from classicism.”
Notes by Howard Posner
1872 at the age of 37
January 19, 1873, at the Paris Conservatoire concert with Auguste Tolbecque as soloist.
Solo cello, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Born 1770; Bonn, Germany
Baptized December, 17, 1770
Died March 26, 1827 (aged 56); Vienna, Austria
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B♭ major, Op. 19
I. Allegro con brio
As a great improviser, Beethoven would have made up his first-movement cadenza on the spot. The written-out cadenza that has come down to us is one that Beethoven created much later (1809).
With this sparkling concerto, the 24-year-old Beethoven made his debut as a pianist and composer before the Viennese public on March 29, 1795. According to the Wiener Zeitung, there was “unanimous applause,” and the young musician had the honor of performing the concerto later that same year with the esteemed Haydn conducting.
Over the next several years, he continued to play the work as a showpiece but revised it several times. On one memorable occasion, when Beethoven decided to write an entirely new third movement – the one that he eventually published – his friend Wegeler reported that “not until the afternoon of the second day before the concert did he write the rondo, and then while suffering from a pretty severe colic which frequently afflicted him… In the anteroom sat four copyists to whom he handed sheet after sheet as soon as it was finished.” Then at the first rehearsal, Beethoven discovered that his piano was tuned a half step lower than the wind instruments, a crisis that required him to transpose his solo part up a half step for that rehearsal.
Although it is called Concerto No. 2, this is the earliest of Beethoven’s five piano concertos. It was written in Bonn before he moved to Vienna, but, by the time it was published in 1801, his publisher had already issued his next concerto and had called it his Concerto No. 1. This B♭concerto from his earlier years thus became No. 2 and was given a later opus number. By then, Beethoven’s style was starting to evolve from the Mozartian character of this concerto toward something quite new. His revisions, including writing a new third movement, could bring the work only so far toward his current style and his current level of experience. Thus he told his publisher, “I don’t consider it one of my best works” and offered it to him for half the price of his first symphony.
As a great improviser, Beethoven would have made up his first-movement cadenza on the spot. The written-out cadenza that has come down to us is one that Beethoven created much later (1809). With it, he briefly inserts his more advanced style of piano writing into this early concerto.
Notes by Martin Pearlman
1787–1789, starting it at the age of 17, before finishing it at 19.
March 29, 1795, at Vienna’s Burgtheater in a concert marking Beethoven’s public debut.
Solo piano, flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns and strings
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Born May 7, 1840; Votkinsk, Russian Empire
Died November 6, 1893 (aged 53); Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B♭ minor, Op. 23
I. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito
[German pianist and conductor Hans von] Bülow premiered the work in Boston on October 13, 1875, where it was a triumphant success, marking the beginning of a string of American performances that increased Tchaikovsky’s popularity here.
On Christmas Eve of 1874, Tchaikovsky took the completed score of his First Piano Concerto to the piano virtuoso Nicholas Rubinstein, hoping that the player would premiere the work and, through his advocacy, find a place for it in the repertoire. Rubinstein had played other works by Tchaikovsky and, until this point, had been one of the composer’s strongest supporters. No wonder that Tchaikovsky was stunned when the pianist gave the new Concerto a reception that made the Siberian tundra seem warm and welcoming. The composer described the incident in a letter to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck, written in January 1878.
“I played the first movement. Never a word, never a single remark. Do you know the awkward and ridiculous sensation of putting before a friend a meal which you have cooked yourself, which he eats – and then holds his tongue? Oh, for a single word, for friendly abuse, for anything to break the silence! For God’s sake say something! But Rubinstein never opened his lips.”
The run-through continued, but the composer still got no reaction from the stone-faced Rubinstein. The master pianist held his tongue until Tchaikovsky had played through the entire Concerto, at which point Rubinstein could no longer contain his disgust.
“‘Well?’ I asked, and rose from the piano. Then a torrent broke from Rubinstein’s lips, gentle at first, gathering volume as it proceeded, and finally bursting into the fury of a Jupiter. My Concerto was worthless, absolutely unplayable; the passages so broken, so disconnected, so unskillfully written, that they could not even be improved; the work itself was bad, trivial, common; here and there I had stolen from other people; only one or two pages were worth anything; all the rest had better be destroyed. I left the room without a word. Presently Rubinstein came to me and, seeing how upset I was, repeated that my Concerto was impossible but said if I would suit it to his requirements he would bring it out at his concert. ‘I shall not alter a single note,’ I replied.”
Luckily, Tchaikovsky didn’t. He immediately banished the idea of dedicating the Concerto to Rubinstein, eventually settling on the German pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow for the honor. Bülow premiered the work in Boston on October 13, 1875, where it was a triumphant success, marking the beginning of a string of American performances that increased Tchaikovsky’s popularity here.
The opening Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso is certainly that – majestic and measured. After an introductory flourish dominated by the brass, a series of inevitable chords from the piano ride a passionate melody in the orchestra. Before this first theme has completely run out of steam, snatches of the second steal in, foreshadowing its imminent appearance in a uniquely structured double exposition. The stormy development builds to two shattering climaxes, first for the piano, punctuated by the orchestra, and then for the orchestra, with a searing figure for the strings taken up by the piano with thundering bravura. The movement closes with great assurance and authority, with dazzling passagework for the soloist giving melodic shape to a series of resolute chords played by the orchestra.
Notes by John Mangum
1874–75, starting it at the age of 34, before finishing it at 35.
October 25, 1875, in Boston, conducted by Benjamin Johnson Lang with Hans von Bülow as soloist.
2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in B♭, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in F, 3 trombones (two tenor, one bass), timpani, solo piano, and strings.