Young violinist will play seldom-heard concerto
Parnas and SSO set for concert at Proctor's tonight
Author(s): GERALDINE FREEDMAN
For The Daily Gazette Date: May 25, 2006 Section:D: Life
& Arts SCHENECTADY - Schenectady Symphony Orchestra
conductor Charles Schneider could not believe it. For tonight's concert,
violinist Madalyn Parnas
, the 15-year old winner of the 2006 League of the Schenectady Symphony's
Stefan Scholarship, wanted to play Henri Vieuxtemps' Second Violin Concerto
with the orchestra, but no one could find the orchestra parts or conductor's
score. "I knew his fifth concerto, which is a fabulous piece and is played a
lot. His fourth also gets played," Schneider said. "But this piece is never
Finally, Marcel Parnas, Madalyn's father, called the archivist at the
New York Philharmonic, where the parts had been discovered in the basement but
were slated to be thrown out. The archivist copied the parts and sent them to
Schneider in January but no score was found.
"It was a nightmare," Schneider said. "There were so many mistakes [in the
parts]. I found 40 huge ones. You get into trouble with these pieces off the
Working with the parts and a piano score, which is available, Schneider's
copyist put a conductor's score together but even that had to be re-edited,
Schneider said. He also discovered that unlike Vieuxtemps' other concertos,
this one had almost virtuosic parts for the string sections and was overall
busier for the orchestra, he said.
Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) was a Belgian violin child prodigy who debuted at 8
years old and went on to have a fabulous career. He was known as the Paganini
of northern Europe. Today, he is remembered for his seven concertos and for the
cadenzas he wrote for Beethoven's Violin Concerto, which are frequently used,
Despite all the efforts, Schneider said, he was pleasantly surprised to find
that the piece is a terrific one.
"There are great themes and melodies. It's a real showcase for the violinist,
flashy, all-out virtuosic," he said.
For Parnas, this saga was all part of the show.
"The concerto was unknown to me," Parnas said in a phone interview from
Stephentown before heading out to a ballet class. "My teacher James Buswell
suggested it. It's a very youthful concerto with an innocent, feminine
The three movements are also full of technical challenges like fast scales,
double stops and chords that she finds fun to play. The concerto has already
become a favorite of hers and she has performed it in several recitals in the
past year, she said.
Parnas began music lessons at four on piano before turning to violin at
age 5 at the encouragement of her parents. Although her mother and father are
not musical, she said, her grandfather is the internationally known cellist
Leslie Parnas. Once she started violin, though, she knew it was the
instrument for her.
"It's very lyrical. It's like singing. I love it," she said.
Since she was 10, Parnas has won several local music competitions,
performed with the Georgia Philharmonic, the Newburgh Symphony Orchestra, and
was on NPR's "From the Top" at Boston's Jordan Hall with host/pianist
Christopher O'Reilly. This is her debut with the SSO and Parnas said she
was very excited about it.
But being a musician at this level wouldn't have been possible if she hadn't
been homeschooled after the first grade, she said.
"The schedule is freer," Parnas said. "I practice four hours in the
morning, then have lunch, then have rehearsals, lessons, ballet, riding or
something and do homework at night."
She works with the teachers of the Keepstone National High School's
correspondence program in Pennsylvania via telephone or e-mail. Currently,
she's a junior and will graduate next year at age 16. After that Parnas hopes
to attend a music conservatory and go on to a solo career. For now, though,
she's just thrilled to be performing and tonight to get a chance to wear her
new blue gown.
"The dress is wonderful," Parnas said.
Schneider is looking forward to working with Parnas almost as much as he
is to conducting Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor and Beethoven's
"Consecration of the House."
"The Beethoven overture is a wonderful piece and it's one of the best overtures
there is," Schneider said. "The Brahms is really hard stuff but there's such a
wonderful payback if you do a really good reading. It's euphoric."
Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote the work in 1822 for the opening of an opera house
in Vienna. Longer than most of his overtures, this one has much fugal and
antiphonal writing and a Handelian character. Schneider thought the work
appropriate to program since this is the SSO's return to its home base at the
newly-renovated Proctor's Theatre.
He chose the Brahms because the orchestra had not performed it in a long time
and in his eyes, he said, the piece ranked above almost everything else in the
"There's nothing like it. It has big tunes and lots of challenges," Schneider
said. "And the orchestra has dramatically improved in the last six years. It's
also a wonderful way to end the season with a big chestnut."
Brahms (1833-1897) finished his first symphony in 1876 after working on it for
years. The entire piece has some of the biggest challenges for a conductor,
Schneider said. In the first movement, these include balances, exact rhythms
and achieving a good tempo because there's so much unison writing. The slow
second movement has a long arc that is difficult to sustain. The third movement
is the shortest but has complex ensemble playing. The massive fourth movement
is the hardest, he said.
"After the huge introduction and the statement of the big hymn, then it's off
to the races," Schneider said. "It's like a freight train with its own life.
it's terribly difficult."
Schenectady Symphony Orchestra
WHO: Violinist Madalyn Parnas WHEN: 7:30 cm MAY 25 tonight WHERE:
Proctor's Theatre HOW MUCH: $22 and $12, free for children under 13 with an
adult MORE INFO: 372-2500 or www.schenectadysymphony.org
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