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Postcards from China: A Photo Tour of Harbin From Exotic Food to Young Virtuosi

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/22/2014 11:16:00 AM

This afternoon I travelled with a busload of Schoenfeld String Competition jurors past the Thousand Auspiciousness Sun (not a typo) Department Store on a field trip to see some sights in the bustling city of Harbin, where the competition, the brainchild of LA Philharmonic violinist Suli Xue, a former pupil of Alice Schoenfeld, is taking place.

Suli tells me Harbin's identity as a "music city" really began when Russian émigrés came across the nearby border here in Northeastern China to build the Trans-Siberian Railway at the turn of the 20th century. Harbin was also a base of operations for the Russian military at that time, and soon thereafter became a haven for refugees after the 1917 Revolution. It is this Russian influence that led to the founding here of China's first symphony orchestra and first music school, the Glazounov Conservatory. When Russian-Chinese relations faltered, and many Russians left Harbin, the ...

Postcards from China: Benefits & Drawbacks of the Chinese Conservatory System

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/21/2014 10:57:00 AM

Major classical music competitions are above all a numbers game. Here at the 2014 Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld International String Competition in Harbin, China, 22 violinists and 20 cellists from around the world took part in the semi-final round of the contest over the last several very intense days. Thirteen jurors, all eminent string players, conductors and teachers (including 93-year-old Alice Schoenfeld herself), attach a single point value from 1 to 10 to each of the three pieces the contestant performs in this round. The musicians are not judged in disparate categories, such as technique, expressivity, quality of sound. That single score encompasses every aspect of their performance. The judges also provide a simple yes or no as to whether the contestant in question should advance to the finals (American Idol meets the Paganini Caprices for Solo Violin!) The six musicians with the highest scores theoretically advance to the finals, ...

Postcards from China: The Uncertain Future Facing Young Musicians

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/21/2014 10:39:00 AM

As an intern at KUSC in 1976 (I was 2!) I remember my mentor, pianist and classical radio pioneer Abram Chasins, often repeating that paradoxical axiom about Mozart's music: that it is too easy for beginners and too difficult for professionals.  This point has been driven home to me as I've observed the semi-final round of the top violin division at the Schoenfeld International String Competition. 

Repertoire in this round is closely circumscribed: contestants must prepare the first movement of Mozart's 4th or 5th Violin Concerto, including the cadenza; a romantic showpiece such as Wienawski's Scherzo Tarantelle, and a killer solo Caprice of their choice by Paganini.

Quite frequently, these top young players from the most prestigious music schools around the world, including Juilliard, Curtis, the Shanghai Conservatory, London's Royal Academy of Music, and the USC Thornton School, betray their nerves in the exposition, the opening statement, of the ...

Postcards from China: A Photo Tour of the Opening Days of the Schoenfeld String Competition

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/20/2014 9:23:00 AM

Idyllic water lilies

I'm currently in Harbin, China, the site of the 2014 Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld String Competition. And the home of these lovely water lilies.

The many faces of the campus of Harbin Engineering University: mammoth construction projects---

The competition is being held at Harbin Engineering University, reportedly the M.I.T. of China. Pictured, one of the many faces of the campus of Harbin Engineering University: mammoth construction projects.

local neighbors of the campus having their daily chat at the riverside gazebo

Local neighbors of the campus having their daily chat at a riverside gazebo.

Honored guests of the Competition: Dean Rob Cutietta of the USC Thornton School and Dr. Brenda Brenner, president-elect of the American String Teachers Association    And longtime faculty member of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

Honored guests of the Competition: Dean Rob Cutietta of the USC Thornton School and Dr. Brenda Brenner, president-elect of the American String Teachers Association and longtime faculty member of the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

Dean Rob Cutietta and KUSC's Gail Eichenthal at the Opening Gala concert.

Dean Rob Cutietta and myself at the Opening Gala concert.

The Opening Gala of the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld 2014 International String Competition attracted  multitudes of young people

The Opening Gala of the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld 2014 International String Competition attracted  multitudes of young people.

Harbin Symphony Orchestra

The Harbin Symphony Orchestra wears white suits and shoes for the men and pastel sleeveless gowns for the ...

Postcards from China: Talking Tango at the Schoenfeld 2014 International String Competition

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 8/19/2014 8:12:00 AM

Harbin, a sprawling city of nearly seven million in Northeastern China, has been designated as an official “Music City” by the United Nations in 2010. It takes that appellation very seriously.

Possibly due to its proximity to Russia, this was the first city in China to embrace Western classical music, and it was here that both China’s first symphony orchestra and first music school were founded.

A tangle of hodgepodge high-rises, lush parks, manic construction projects, and several leading universities, Harbin is bursting with pride to present and provide major financial support for the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld 2014 International String Competition this week, named for the beloved German-born artists and longtime faculty members of the USC Thornton School of Music, who have nurtured generations of topnotch violinists and cellists respectively. Though Eleonore died in 2007, impossibly elegant nonagenerian Alice has flown to Harbin for this great occasion.

The artistic ...

Requests rule at Classical KUSC

Posted By: Allison Engel · 7/28/2014 1:58:00 PM

Playing musical favorites each day shows that the station always listens to its fans

Reprinted from USC News


  Host Alan Chapman

In these days of computer-generated playlists, the personalized request has become a casualty at many radio stations. But at Classical KUSC, a listener-supported station, requests are a daily feature.

Every weekday, there’s a full hour of requests during the noon hour hosted by Alan Chapman. In addition, every weekday morning at 7:15 a.m., The Morning Show host Dennis Bartel plays an “Off to School Request.” (In the summer months, it’s called a “Summer Vacation Request.”) And Fridays from 4 to 7 p.m., host Rich Capparela takes requests during his At the Beach show.

Chapman said the station has been fielding requests since the days that the late Gene Parrish, who joined the station in 1984, hosted the midday show. Back then, requests were taken on the phone in ...

Cutting-Edge in Shangri-La: A Preview of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival

Posted By: Gail Eichenthal · 5/27/2014 3:37:00 PM

Libbey Bowl cover image

Ojai, California is one of my favorite places on earth. Not for nothing was it cast as the idyllic Shangri-La in the 1937 movie Lost Horizon.  But the rustic beauty of the Ojai Valley belies the seriousness and stature of its annual cutting-edge music festival, coming up June 12-15.  It is therefore a labor of love each year to record this detailed sonic preview of the Festival with longtime Ojai Music Festival Artistic Director Tom Morris, former chief executive of the Cleveland Orchestra and a founding director of Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall.  This year’s festival boasts charismatic pianist and writer Jeremy Denk as music director, and Jeremy has vowed to introduce some marvelous twists this year: humor, irreverence and a brand new opera!  Hope to see you at the Festival!

Click on one of the players above to hear our preview of the 2014 Ojai Music Festival.

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