Classical music lovers can catch a glimpse of two future stars this Sunday when the winners of the Chappaqua Orchestra’s annual International Concerto Competition are featured on stage with the orchestra.
The season-ending concert at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center will feature Junior Division winning cellist Sara Scanlon, 17, of Connecticut and 21-year-old Yulin Xu of Beijing, a pianist who captured the Senior Division. Despite their youth, Scanlon, enrolled at Juilliard’s pre-college program, and Xu, who currently is a sophomore at the world famous performing arts conservatory, possess all the qualities found in elite musicians, said Chappaqua Orchestra Conductor and Musical Director Michael Shapiro.
Shapiro called them “unique” and “fresh,” exuding the type of talent and confidence on stage that is striking as soon as you hear them perform.
“In their particular case, they have a kind of authority, which is very personable, (they’re) great interpreters of the music,” Shapiro said. “They’ve got all the tools to perform very difficult and famous works and you just know it when you hear them.”
By winning their respective divisions, Scanlon and Xu have earned the opportunity to play with a professional orchestra. Scanlon will be performing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor while Xu will be taking up the challenge of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, an incredibly demanding piece with literally thousands of notes, Shapiro said.
This was the third year of the Chappaqua Orchestra’s Concerto Competition, something that many orchestras have done over the years. In the brief time that Chappaqua has organized the competition, it has grown rapidly, with about 55 entrants having sought to make a name for themselves this year, Shapiro said.
He said the competition is open to students in conservatories and top university music departments throughout the United States and abroad.
Scanlon and Xu will also be teaming up for a duet at a post-concert meet-the-artists reception.
Included in the concert will be a performance of Robert Paterson’s “Dark Mountains” and Franz Liszt’s “Les Preludes.” Paterson is a New York-based composer who has often written music with themes of nature and has experimented with different forms, Shapiro said. “Dark Mountains,” written in 2011, was inspired by the natural beauties of Vermont, he said.
After Sunday’s concert, Shapiro will be heading to Norway to conduct the 30th performance of his score for the 1931 classic film “Frankenstein” at the Bergen International Festival on May 23. It is the European premiere of his score that debuted in 2002 at the Jacob Burns Film Center.
“I’m thrilled about this because I’ve never been to Norway, and to go there and conduct on the highest level at a festival that features the top artists in classical music…is extraordinary,” Shapiro said.
In the past year, he has also conducted the piece leading the Royal Canadian Air Force Band in Canada and the United States Navy Band in Washington.
For Shapiro, being able to conduct at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, in the community where he’s lived since 1985, is also a thrill for him and for arts lovers in the area.
“It’s exciting having that in the middle of what is going to be a very dynamic residential-commercial development,” he said. “It’s right there so people eager to go and hear great theater and dance and music, it’s all good.”
Sunday’s concert is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tickets are $30 each and $20 for seniors and students and can be purchased on the Chappaqua Orchestra website at www.chappaquaorchestra.org or at the box office. The Chappaqua Performing Arts Center is located on the grounds of Chappaqua Crossing at 480 Bedford Rd. in Chappaqua.