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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 played."

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 beaten path."

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.

CHILD PRODIGY

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, Schneider said.

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 character."

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.

BRAHMS, BEETHOVEN

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 symphonic literature.

"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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