Competition Draws “The Best of the Best” Young Musicians

For the talented young classical musicians of Texas (ages 18-30, residents or non-resident Texas students) it was the biggest night of the year. With veteran radio broadcaster, Bob Stevenson (KUHF-88.7 FM) returning as emcee at Conroe’s elegant Crighton Theatre, it was time for this month’s annual Entergy Young Texas Artists Competition Finals sponsored by The Montgomery County Performing Arts Society. The panel of renowned judges included soprano, Carmen Balthrop, pianist, James Dick, conductors, Amir Kats and Louis Salemno, and Dallas Symphony’s Maria Schleuning. But they were not the only judges, as the spectators were invited to vote for the “Audience Choice Award.” The many talents on display would make such judgments difficult for all.

Filip Fenrych and John Shiu were finalists in the competition for Strings. Mr. Shiu performed the 1st Movement of the Dittersdorf “Concerto in E” for string bass. While there may have been a note or two the artist would prefer to “do over,” he performed with great flair and a readily apparent affection for the instrument and its potential. He offered a smooth, rich exploration of the instrument’s deep range, which won him the Runner-up prize of $500.00. Meanwhile, the handsome Mr. Fenrych ably performed the violin “Recitativo & Scherzo” of Fritz Chrysler. While the Italian word “scherzo” translates as “joke,” this performance was no laughing matter. Playing with great skill and passion he met the many technical demands of the piece, and was rewarded with the $1,000 First Prize.

Sopranos, Daniela Friedl and Dana Zenobi were finalists in the Voice competition. Elegant in a gown of champagne satin with sheer bronze cloak, Friedl sang Mozart’s “Una Donna A Quindici Anni” from “Così fan tutte.” Hers was a fearless, coy, and amusing performance of the comic aria, and it garnered the Runner-up $500.00 award. There was still more Mozart as Zenobi offered “Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leban,” from the rarely performed opera, “Zaide.” A glittering jeweled necklace highlighted her sleek gown of emerald green satin. Poised and joyful, her performance was elegant as well, and would win her the $1,000 First Prize.

In the Instrumental category, finalists Daniel Lauderback and Laura Rakel displayed their considerable talents. Lauderback performed Bonneau’s “Caprice en Forme de Valse.” It was a sprightly adventure for saxophone and had a modern jazz feel to it. It was a pulsing display of technical skill, and won the young artist the $500.00 Runner-up prize. In an elegant satin gown, capped with rich, black velvet, Rakel offered the finale of Ibert’s “Flute Concerto.” Performing the challenging work’s early complexities with dazzling virtuosity, she handled the sudden change of pace beautifully as the softer moods of the piece emerged. It was a performance that won her not only the thousand-dollar First Prize, but also the Audience Choice Award of $500.00.

The Piano competition finalists were Anastasia Markina and Sergei Kuznetsoff. Dressed in a stunning gown of deep blue-green, Miss Markina performed Medtner’s extensive “Sonata—Reminiscenza Op. 38, No. 1.” With great passion, she displayed instant delicacy of technique, and seemed to be one with the keyboard, whether passages were gentle or intense. Her soothing artistry wove a web of mystery capturing every subtle variation in the work: one moment frenzy— the next, tranquility the equal of gentle waves of the sea landing on a beach. She was rewarded with the $500 Runner-up prize. Her challenger, Mr. Kuznetsoff, performed Robert Schumann’s “Intermezzo in D minor, Op. 4, No. 5. With a proud, stately approach to the piano, he displayed exquisite delicacy, solid precision and perfect control of the musical variations in the work. His sense of drama and technical fluency undoubtedly contributed to his double-header win with both the thousand-dollar First Prize and, on this very grand evening, the thousand-dollar Grand Prize.

(The Courier    3.13.05)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at
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