Just don't call these two
These kids aren't "cute," violist Christof Huebner insists.
They're real musicians.
Two Berkshire Music School students will join professional
musicians from the Boston-area Walden Chamber Players in a
Boccherini string quintet tonight at the school. But Huebner,
Walden's director, promises that the performance will have "good
ensemble and real musical weight."
The student performers are violinist Kathryn Andersen, 17, of
Pittsfield and cellist Cicely Parnas, 9, of Stephentown, N.Y. They
were co-winners of the school's Merit Scholarship Competition last
Huebner was one of the three judges. He went in with the idea of
teaming the winner -- co-winners, as it turned out -- with his pros
in the concert tonight.
|Kathryn Andersen, 17,
foreground with her violin; Christof Huebner, artistic
director of the Walden Chamber Ensemble with his viola;
and Cicely Parnas, 9, from Stephentown, N.Y. with her
cello. The girl will be performing with the Walden
Chamber Ensemble tonight at the Berkshire Music School.
Photo: Julie A. Brown / Berkshire Eagle Staff
At first, says Huebner, he thought of a performance of a single
movement, such as the Walden group has done with students elsewhere.
Then he decided that "these two are so good and so deserving that I
really wanted to give them the chance to do a whole piece."
It's a first for the 5-year-old chamber ensemble. It's probably
also a first for the Berkshires. Professionals from concert series
have played alongside students before, but rarely if ever have
students performed a whole piece in concert with a professional
The often-performed Boccherini work will be heard in the
composer's own arrangement of one of his quintets for guitar and
strings. Known by the title of its last movement, "Night Music of
Madrid," it is one of three works on the 7 p.m. program. The others
are Krzysztof Penderecki's String Trio and Brahms' Piano Quartet in
C minor, Opus 60.
The adult performers are violinist Calvin Wiersma, cellist
Susannah Chapman, pianist Jonathan Bass and Huebner. The program,
preceded by violin, cello and piano classes given by the Walden
players, launches a collaboration between the ensemble and the
The annual competition awards scholarship money raised by
students in a musical marathon. Huebner was "amazed" by the quality
of the entrants.
"I think that a lot of music schools in major urban centers could
be quite pleased to have such a pool of wonderful players," he says.
Kathryn Andersen is a seven-time winner in the competition. A
student of Alla Zernitskaya, she has amassed a long list of honors,
including service this year as concertmaster of the Empire State
Youth Orchestra in Albany, N.Y. She has toured with the orchestra to
Seiji Ozawa Hall, Carnegie Hall, Germany and the Czech Republic.
For two summers, she attended the Boston University Tanglewood
Institute. Last summer, she appeared on the National Public Radio
program "From the Top," broadcast from Tanglewood.
Cicely Parnas, who studies with Erica Pickhardt, has a famous
cellist in her family. Her grandfather is Leslie Parnas, a
well-known soloist and founder of New York's Lincoln Center Chamber
Music Society. As the youngest winner of the school's competition,
she nosed out her sister Madalyn. Madalyn won on the violin at 10.
By coincidence, Leslie Parnas was Pickhardt's teacher.
The name also rang a bell for Huebner. When he came to the United
States 17 years ago to study viola at the St. Louis Conservatory,
Leslie Parnas was a visiting faculty member. Huebner knew him as "a
very, very distinguished cellist."
"He had apparently heard that there was this violist from Vienna
who was maybe a little bit too full of himself, and slightly
arrogant," Huebner recalls. "So the first coaching we had, I
expected him to be, of course, duly impressed. And he proceeded to
absolutely decimate me, telling me that what I was doing in a Dvorak
piano quartet was not even -- as he put it -- 'in the ballpark.' "
Huebner absorbed the advice.
"Once he'd established that he was the boss and that I wasn't as
good as I thought I was, in the course of the coachings that we had
during the year, he actually became a very, very kind and
Huebner considers it "ironic and nice that I'm able to return the
favor of the wonderful coachings."
Kathryn has no personal connection for Huebner, but he says, "All
I could think about when I saw her play was [the great English
cellist] Jacqueline DuPre. She has that wonderful hair, and she
plays with amazing assurance."
Matching student with adult players in concert is a tactic the
Walden group uses in a schools program in both eastern Massachusetts
and the Berkshires. Many Walden concerts, like the one here, are
held in conjunction with school residencies. In a 1999 residency,
for example, a student flutist in New Lebanon, N.Y., played a
movement from a Mozart quartet with Walden members.
After choosing the dual winners here, Huebner thought it would be
a natural to pair them in the Boccherini quintet. With its picture
of a military night watch entering and receding in a Madrid parade,
it seemed well suited for young players, he says.
The program also marks a further step in the ensemble's expansion
into the Berkshires. Other concerts during the current season are
taking place in Richmond, New Lebanon and Williamstown as well as
Troy, N.Y. The Williamstown program is scheduled for March 2 in the
Clark Art Institute, continuing a collaboration there.
The group also is expanding its educational activities in the
area. Walden players returned to the Richmond Consolidated School
last fall for a residency on composing and creativity, and will hold
spring residencies at Drury and Hoosac Valley high schools and the
Adams Middle School.
In Adams, the group will present its program on "Music and the
Social Conscience," drawing connections between music and the
society it comes out of. The Pittsfield visit is supported by
Berkshire Bank and the Pittsfield Cultural Council. Grants from the
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation support the north county
Huebner hopes to continue and expand the collaboration with the
music school, perhaps to four days, as elsewhere in Massachusetts.
He says the students here are "awesome," the teachers rise to a
similar level, and Walden's assistance could "make a real