Salon de Virtuosi 2023 Career Grant Recipients Part 2

(top left) Ivalas Quartet, (bottom left) Rémi Geniet, (right) Keila Wakao


Emi Ferguson: Hello. I'm Emi Ferguson, and tonight we'll be continuing our celebration of winners of the Salon de Virtuosi 2023 Career Grants on this edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.

The Young Artists Showcase, now in its 47th year, is generously underwritten by the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. This is the second part of our two-part series on this year's Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant Award recipients. Winners of the Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant have long been celebrated here on the Showcase. And as a winner of the award, young musicians receive grants of $5,000 in addition to sharing their favorite pieces of music as part of the annual award ceremony.

For many years, the ceremony was presided over by our dear Bob Sherman, host and creator of the Young Artists Showcase. Bob passed away last year at the age of 90, and this year's awards concert was dedicated to Bob. The performances we'll be hearing tonight are from that concert and were recorded live here in New York City at Merkin Hall. Starting us off is French pianist Rémi Geniet performing selections from Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin.

[MUSIC - Ravel: Le tombeau de Couperin - Rémi Geniet, piano]


Emi Ferguson: That was Rémi Geniet performing selections from Maurice Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin. Though you may have just heard Rémi dazzle us with his piano skills, he is also a budding conductor, something he started exploring during the pandemic. Here's Rémi sharing a little bit of that adventure.

Rémi Geniet: Uh, so during COVID, a little bit less concert on the piano, a little bit more time to reflect also about the career, I think was quite the same for everyone, to be honest. At the meantime, really I-I-I-I met a fantastic teacher in conducting in Germany, and so I decided to-to-to study more conducting. And it's actually taken me a lot of time now, so this grant is very welcome to-to help me continue those studies.

Emi Ferguson: Next up is 17-year-old violinist Keila Wakao from Boston, Massachusetts where she's currently finishing up high school at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts. As the winner of many competitions, balancing schoolwork with her busy performance schedule can be a little challenging. Here's Keila from the stage.

Keila Wakao: Well, I go to Walnut Hill School for the Arts, which is a high school in Boston that has lots of different arts classes, and I'm obviously in the music department. So in that sense, the school really helps me. Um, especially when I have to travel to perform, they always support me in missing homework and all this, but of course, it can be a struggle sometimes 'cause I'll come back a week later and there'll be three tests that I already missed and I'm just, "Oh my gosh." [chuckles] But, um, it's-it's a great school and, um, I have lots of fun there and the wonderful friends I have there and the faculty really support me, so it's very good balance.

Emi Ferguson: Here's Keila Wakao with pianist Kyoung Im Kim performing Ernest Chausson's Poème.

[MUSIC - Chausson: Poème Op.25 - Keila Wakao, Violin; Kyoung Im Kim, Piano]


Emi Ferguson: Keila Wakao and Kyoung Im Kim performing Ernest Chausson's Poème for Violin and Piano. But if you loved that piece, you can also hear it in arrangements made by the composer himself for violin and orchestra or violin and string quartet. Today, it is one of the most beloved pieces in the violin repertoire, but when it was first written, publishers were hesitant to take on the piece due to its extraordinary difficulty. To get it published, Chausson's friend and fellow composer, Isaac Albéniz, secretly paid for the publishing costs, and the piece continues to find new fans today through performances like Keila's.

It's time for a quick break now, but when we come back, we'll hear more from the 2023 winners of the Salon de Virtuosi Career Grants here on the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase.

Welcome back. I'm Emi Ferguson. And on this week's edition of the McGraw Family's Young Artists Showcase, we're celebrating the winners of the 2023 Salon de Virtuosi Career Grant, an honor that bestows an award of $5,000 for these young artists and a chance to share their music-making live in Merkin Hall, as well as here on the Young Artists Showcase.

Tonight, we've heard from French pianist Rémi Geniet and Boston-based violinist Keila Wakao, but now we'll hear from the Ivalas Quartet who are based right here in New York City and are the Juilliard School's graduate quartet in residence. The quartet started playing together in 2017 and features violinists Reuben Kebede and Tiani Butts, violinist Marcus Stevenson, and cellist Pedro Sanchez. The quartet seeks to enhance the classical music world by consistently spotlighting past and present BIPOC composers. Here's the Ivalas Quartet performing George Walker's Lyric for Strings.

[MUSIC - Walker: Lyric for Strings - Ivalas Quartet]


Emi Ferguson: The Ivalas Quartet performing George Walker's Lyric for Strings. Walker's Lyric was written while he was still a student at the Curtis Institute of Music. It has since become his most performed work, though George Walker continued to write many other wonderful pieces until his death in 2018 at the age of 96. The Ivalas Quartet had the pleasure of performing George Walker's Lyric for Strings at Carnegie Hall in January of 2020. Later that year, they worked in collaboration with George Walker's son to program his string quartet number one with Friends of Chamber Music, Denver and the Colorado Music Festival. Here's the quartet speaking from the stage of Merkin Hall.

Reuben Kebede: Uh, the first piece we played was by George Walker. And he, um, actually wrote that piece after his grandmother passed away, so it's kind of an elegy, um, to her. And it's a really wonderful work. One of the things we really believe in is playing music by underrepresented composers alongside, um, the war horses of the canon, uh, because we believe they belong there.

Emi Ferguson: To compliment George Walker's Lyric for Strings, the Ivalas Quartet's next election is the final movement from Haydn's String Quartet in F Major Opus 77, Number 2, his last completed work for a string quartet. The peace mixes Polish and Slavonic folk dances in a polonaise in the Hungarian style. Here's the finale from Haydn's last completed string quartet performed by the Ivalas Quartet.

[MUSIC - Haydn: String Quartet in F Major Op.77, No.2, IV. finale: vivace assai - Ivalas Quartet]


Emi Ferguson: The Ivalas Quartet performing Franz Joseph Haydn's Finale from the String Quartet Opus 77, Number 2. We have a little extra time tonight, so please enjoy selections from Maurice Ravel's Piano Trio performed by the Merz Trio, who we featured last week.

[MUSIC - Ravel: Piano Trio in A minor, II. Pantoum & III. Passacaille - Merz Trio]


Emi Ferguson: That was the Merz Trio performing selections from Maurice Ravel's Piano Trio in A Minor from their 2021 album, INK. Thank you for joining us this week where we showcase the young artists awarded the 2023 Salon de Virtuosi Grant, and heard performances from the award ceremony dedicated to The Young Artists Showcase founder and longtime host Bob Sherman. The Young Artists Showcase is generously underwritten on WQXR by the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. Here's Terry McGraw with more.

Terry McGraw: Good evening everyone. It's great to be with you and it's always great being with The Young Artists Showcase and to hear these really wonderful and inspiring musicians as they continue to share their incredible gifts with us every week. I can't wait to hear the fabulous talent coming up on the showcase, and I am so pleased to be able to support the series all through its well over four decades on WQXR. And there's so much more to come.

Emi Ferguson: Thank you, Terry, and special thanks to the Salon de Virtuosi and Lora Tchekoratova for their support of these incredible young musicians. Next week, host Simone Dinnerstein presents Natalie Rose Kress and Rachell Ellen Wong, two wonderful violinists who bridge the worlds of period performance practice and modern violin. Many thanks to WQXR program producers Laura Boyman and Max Fine. Our generous program underwriter is the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Family Foundation. I'm Emi Ferguson. Thanks for joining us tonight and goodnight.


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