Special Music School High School Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert

Conductor David Bernard rehearsing W.A. Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G major, K. 183 with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony in Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center. Photo by Michael Lakota
Conductor David Bernard rehearsing W.A. Mozart's Symphony No. 25 in G major, K. 183 with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony in Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center. Photo by Michael Lakota

NEW YORK – Special Music School High School Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert

The prestigious Merkin Concert Hall in New York City was recently graced by the exceptional talents of young musicians who emerged victorious in the recent Special Music School High School Concerto Competition. Their performances, accompanied by the venerated Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, brought to life a diverse program showcasing their technical prowess, poise, artistry, and creative sensibility.

Park Avenue Chamber Symphony

After welcoming comments from Igal Kesselman, Music Director of the Special Music School, the concert commenced under the baton of conductor David Bernard with W. A. Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183, I. Allegro con brio, performed by the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. The orchestra’s vibrant energy and precise execution set a high standard for the evening. You can hear Maestro Bernard’s introductory comments HERE.

Informed Commentary

Maestro Bernard introduced each musical selection with insightful, informed commentary. An inspired and engaging speaker, Bernard brought the music to life, drawing connections, for example, between tonight’s youthful artists and Mozart, who composed his Symphony No. 25 at age 17.


Sophia Lesokhin, Violin. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Sophia Lesokhin, Violin. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Sophia Lesokhin, Violin

Following the exhilarating opening work, violinist Sophia Lesokhin took the stage for Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G Major, K. 216, I. Allegro. Lesokhin’s performance was a masterclass in elegance and mastery. Her interpretation was both delicate and bold, capturing the essence of Mozart’s playful yet profound composition. Her tone was rich and warm, and she performed with excellent intonation and articulation. Her cadenza was captivating and splendid.

Vanessa Niu, Mezzo Soprano. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Vanessa Niu, Mezzo Soprano. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Vanessa Niu, Mezzo-soprano

Mezzo-soprano Vanessa Niu delivered an evocative rendition of “Deh per questo istante solo” from Mozart’s Clemenza di Tito, K. 621. Niu’s rich, impassioned voice filled the hall, conveying the depth of sorrow and plea intrinsic in the aria. Her interpretations were expressive, dramatic, and poised as she captured the intent and energy of the work.

Santiago Del Curto, Clarinet. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Santiago Del Curto, Clarinet. Photo by Edward Kliszus



Santiago Del Curto, Clarinet

The audience was then treated to Santiago Del Curto’s performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, I. Allegro. Del Curto’s clarinet sang with a smooth, lyrical quality, his articulation crisp and phrasing exquisite, making the instrument’s rich, unique timbre resonate beautifully. His performance was musical, flawless, and refined.

Rowan Fortmiller, Cello. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Rowan Fortmiller, Cello. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Rowan Fortmiller, Cello

Cellist Rowan Fortmiller captivated listeners with Edouard Lalo’s Cello Concerto in D Minor, I. Prelude, lento – Allegro maestoso. Fortmiller’s profound musicality and technical skill shone through as he navigated the concerto’s demanding passages with passion and refinement. Listeners basked in Formiller’s rich tone and affections beyond his years. The cellist’s mastery of dynamics and phrasing added layers of complexity to the performance. Soft, whispering passages contrasted beautifully with bold, commanding ones, creating a spellbinding and rich tapestry of sound. The warmth of the cello’s lower registers blended seamlessly with the brighter, more brilliant tones, showcasing the instrument’s versatility and the performer’s deep connection to the music.

Violet Paris-Hullmer, Soprano. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Violet Paris-Hullmer, Soprano. Photo by Edward Kliszus



Violet Paris-Hillmer, Soprano

Soprano Violet Paris-Hillmer delivered an enchanting performance of Leo Delibes’ “L’ Air des clochettes” (Bell Song) from Lakme. Her coloratura voice sparkled with clarity, virtuosity, and precision while exemplifying the delicate charms of Delibes’ renowned aria. Paris-Hillmer displayed her ability to command phrasing and breath control while capturing the exotic flavor of the music. The alluring intones of the “Bell Song” were characterized by Paris-Hillmer’s agile navigation of the high tessitura and rapid coloratura passages. Her voice danced through the elaborate melismas and staccatos, creating a sense of lightness and buoyancy.

Rebecca Beato, Violin. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Rebecca Beato, Violin. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Rebecca Beato, Violin

Rebecca Beato’s interpretation of Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane was nothing short of mesmerizing. The violinist’s blazing technique and passionate expression made for a spellbinding performance, showcasing her as a true virtuoso. Beato’s command of triple stops, left-hand pizzicati, harmonics, and other virtuosic techniques was riveting.

Philina Zhang, Piano. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Philina Zhang, Piano. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Philina Zhang, Piano

The evening concluded with Philina Zhang’s vibrant rendition of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1. I. Vivace. Zhang’s performance was a stunning display of technical mastery and mature musical insights, bringing the complex and richly textured piece to life with spectacular force. This work well displayed Zhang’s power, drama, marvelous expression, and commanding virtuosity.

Talent and Perseverance

This concert was a testament to the extraordinary talent and perseverance of these young musicians. Their performances not only honored the great composers whose works they interpreted but also promised a bright future for musical arts. The audience left Merkin Concert Hall inspired and in veneration of the night’s superb musical triumphs.

Congratulations to all the performers for their terrific performances!

Final Bows by winners of the Special Music School Concerto Contest, Maestro David Bernard, and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Final Bows by winners of the Special Music School Concerto Contest, Maestro David Bernard, and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. Photo by Edward Kliszus

Special Music School High School Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert

Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center

David Bernard, Conductor

W. A. Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183, I. Allegro con brio. Park Avenue Chamber Symphony
W. A. Mozart: Violin Concerto in G Major, K. 216, I. Allegro. Sophia Lesokhin, violin
W. A. Mozart: Deh per questo istante solo from Clemenza di Tito, K. 621. Vanessa Niu, Mezzo Soprano
W. A. Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622, I. Allegro. Santiago Del Curto, Clarinet
Edouard Lalo: Cello Concerto in D Minor, I. Prelude, lento – Allegro maestoso, Rowan Fortmiller, Cello
Leo Delibes: L’ Air des clochettes (Bell Song) from Lakme. Violet Paris-Hillmer, Soprano
Maurice Ravel: Tzigane. Rebecca Beato, Violin
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 1. I. Vivace. Philina Zhang, Piano



Special Music School at the Kaufman Music Center

129 W 67th St, New York, NY 10023
(212) 501-3318

Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center

129 W 67th St, New York, NY 10023
(212) 501-3330

Park Avenue Chamber Symphony

David Bernard, Music Director and Conductor
875 5th Ave, New York, NY 10065
(917) 740-7227
Website: https://chambersymphony.com/

For information and tickets for next season, click HERE.

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony presents Romantic Reflections, The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony records TchaikovskyPeter and the WolfTranscendent Triumph and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2,  and The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony performs Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Special Music School High School Concerto Competition Winners’ Concert

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