Guest conductor Eisenberg imparts confidence to youth soloists
By Eileen Wingard
SANTA BARBARA, California–During a bright, sunny afternoon on May 6, the Santa Barbara Music and Arts Conservatory’s 28th Annual Young Soloists Showcase took place in the charming Granada Theatre on State Street. The guest conductor, leading a 33-piece professional orchestra to accompany the young performers, was my niece, Avlana Eisenberg. The nine soloists, four violinists and five pianists, aged 15-18, were all winners of a competition. In past years, there were fewer soloists, but this year, these nine were so outstanding, that the judges decided that they all deserved to perform. This resulted in a two and a half hour program with two intermissions.
The violinists were 18 year-old Camille Miller, who concluded the program with a technically secure, flashy rendition of Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen; 15 year-old Sofiya Prykhitko, who performed Wieniawski’s Polonaise in D Major with strength and confidence; 16 year-old Andrew Horak, who brought virtuosic flair to the first movement of Bruch’s Concerto #2; and 16 year-old Joshelle Conley, whose opening Adagio from Concerto #1 by Bruch, projected lovely lyricism.
All had fluid bow arms, nice vibrato, solid technic and used contrasting dynamics. They were obviously trained by a first class pedagogue. Their teacher, Nina Bodnar, a native of Santa Barbara, served as Concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Symphony and Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, before becoming Concertmaster of the Saint Louis Symphony under the direction of Leonard Slatkin. Her teachers included Sybil Maxwell, well-known Los Angeles violin teacher, Henri Temianka, Los Angeles-based recording artist and conductor, and the great French violinist, Zino Francescatti.
Nina’s mother, Lana Bodnar, is the Director of the Music and Arts Conservatory, and the six pianists were products of her fine tutelage. Marcos Schneider, 15, played two movements from Bach’s Concerto in F minor. Avlana’s direction of the pizzicato string accompaniment was so precise, that they sounded like one. Sixteen-year-old Sophia Zheng’s subtle tempo variations in the first movement of Schumann’s Piano Concerto were carefully followed by the conductor. Daria Etezadi, a high school junior, plumbed the essence of Richard Addinsell’s much neglected Warsaw Concerto. The orchestra lent firm support. Michael Sikich, 18, was a stand out with his performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Concerto #4. The pearly runs, dramatic chords and beautifully shaped phrases were memorable. Avlana brought the orchestra back on the mark with a sublime entrance at the end of the cadenza. The tutti sections had the power and resonance of a larger ensemble. Grace Stanton, 18, performed the first movement of Chopin’s F-minor Concerto. There were poetic interchanges between piano and orchestra.
After the concert, Avlana received comments, hugs and handshakes of appreciation from the performers, their teachers, and their parents. During the two rehearsals the day before and the dress rehearsal that morning, she helped create a program where each soloist felt confident. In the performance, she followed them with sensitivity, watching them continuously, and keeping the dynamics balanced so that the orchestra never covered their sound. However, when the orchestra played passages by itself, it came forth strong and assertive. With her winning smile, the young conductor welcomed each soloist on stage and afterwards applauded and congratulated each one.
Avlana is currently the Associate Conductor of Juventas New Music Ensemble in Boston. She recently completed her second season as Music Director of the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Her musical training includes a Fulbright Fellowship for conducting study in Paris. She holds a Master’s Degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Michigan and a Graduate performance Diploma from the Peabody Institute. For two consecutive summers, she was one of seven student conductors at the Salzburg Festival. She has guest conducted the Lancaster Festival Orchestra, the Salzburg Chamber soloists, and the New Symphony Orchestra of Sofia, Bulgaria.
I was here in Santa Barbara with two of my daughters, Tamara Schiff and Harriet Wingard. Together, we enjoyed our family conducting star. Sunny Santa Barbara was a fitting backdrop for the musical sunshine that poured forth from the Young Soloists Showcase, guest conducted by Avlana Eisenberg.
Wingard is a retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony and a freelance writer based in San Diego. She may be contacted at email@example.com
Short URL: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/?p=28235