By Punch Howarth
Rebecca Shiao is this year’s winner of the Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition and will play the first movement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra on April 5 and 6. Ms. Shiao is a 17-year-old senior at Catalina Foothills High School and is a very talented student of Susan Chu. Second-place winner was Carissa Powe, violin, and the third prize was won by Claire Thai, harp.
Sergei Prokofiev (1891–1953) died on March 5, and 50 minutes later Josef Stalin died of the same cerebral hemorrhage diagnosis as Prokofiev. Because of this coincidence, news of Prokofiev’s death was delayed several days. Prokofiev is arguably one of the three greatest Russian composers of the 20th century, along with Igor Stravinsky and Dimitri Shostakovich. Prokofiev was the favorite Russian composer of this writer. His major works include seven symphonies, nine concertos, eight suites, seven ballets and five operas. Of his five piano concertos, the Third has been most popular. Starting with sketches in Russia, it took several years of trial and
error prior to completion at Etretat in Normandy, France. Prokofiev was the soloist at the premiere in December, 1921 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frederick Stock, just two weeks apart from the premiere of his opera The Love for Three Oranges, also in Chicago. Like Beethoven and Liszt, Prokofiev was an outstanding piano artist.
The keys of the movement are C major, its relative A minor, and C minor. The music is tonal and lyrical but with typical snippets of dissonance and abrupt changes, and it follows sonata form pretty much. Its inclusion of castanets and tambourine are unusual in a concerto. There is not space in an article like this to explain in detail the work’s structure, as all his big compositions are complex. The soloist and orchestra are equal partners, and the soloist will utilize the entire length of the keyboard at times. The music will be tranquil, explosive and dramatic, and is a real challenge for the 17-year-old Rebecca Shiao.
Conducted by Linus Lerner, the concert will be performed at SaddleBrooke at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 5 at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, and on Sunday, April 6 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson. Also on this program will be Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov, the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major of Liszt with Pervez Mody as soloist, and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. This concert will have broad audience appeal, as all selections are well known and popular.