Symphony Orchestra showcases student soloist
By Connor Yearsley
Today’s Baylor Symphony Orchestra concert will shine the spotlight on one of the School of Music’s outstanding student musicians.
Ricardo Hamaury Gómez, winner of the 2012 Baylor Concerto Competition, will perform Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2 today at 7:30 p.m. in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building.
Also on the program are Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy” and American composer Christopher Theofanidis’ “Rainbow Body.”
Gómez said he is proud to have won the concerto competition.
“I was actually surprised because this year there were a lot of great competitors, especially in the piano department,” he said.
Gómez, who has played violin since age 6, is in his second year at Baylor. He transferred from Long Island Conservatory where he began working on the Bartók concerto but set it aside until coming to Baylor, where he and Dr. Bruce Berg, professor of violin, picked it back up.
“Bruce Berg was excited as well,” Gómez said.
He said Berg had to learn the piece along with him in order to help with it.
Gómez said certain things drew him to this concerto.
“At the beginning I needed or wanted to play a 20th century piece,” he said. “Then I started listening to recordings. It has a lot of energy. It features the violin well. The orchestra part and violin part complement each other well.”
Gómez said audience members will enjoy the piece because it’s unconventional and flashy.
“If you start listening to how weird the melodies are, it’s very different from other concertos,” he said. “I think the soloist can do a lot with it to show expressivity and virtuosity.”
Stephen Heyde, conductor of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, said the Bartók is one of the more challenging pieces the orchestra has worked on and that he has conducted, and Gómez agrees that it is difficult.
“It’s considered one of the most difficult concertos in the repertoire for violin,” Gómez said.
Gómez said that makes it impractical in a way and prevents it from being performed more often. He said they have been rehearsing the piece for three weeks, but it’s unrealistic to get that much rehearsal time in the professional world.
“I think it should be performed more often because it’s such a great piece,” he said.
Heyde said the piece will help the orchestra’s listening skills improve and will allow them to learn to accompany a soloist. Also, it requires the orchestra, especially the strings, to play in the extreme registers of the instrument. He said it presents rhythmic challenges and opens up a different kind of musical language.
“It’s not a language you get to listen to often, but it’s easy to digest,” Gómez said. “And it’s great for a soloist.”
Gómez said the piece will broaden his palette and his capabilities as a violinist.
“I’m still learning from this concerto,” Gómez said.
The program notes also explain that the concerto contains passages that parody the works of other composers. For instance, in the first movement, Bartók satirically alludes to Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone system, which he vehemently opposed.
Heyde also said he thinks it’s interesting to note how detached the piece seems to be from Bartók’s personal conflicts at the time of its composition in 1938, when his native Hungary, and most of Europe for that matter, was on the brink of war and feeling the increased pressure of fascism.
The 1881 revised version of Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy” will also be performed.
Heyde said that the piece has it all, including both conflict and beauty.
The program notes describe the love theme as “one of the most poignant love themes ever written.”
“The Tchaikovsky is demanding just because it’s so familiar,” Heyde said.
Finally, the concert will feature Christopher Theofanidis’ “Rainbow Body,” which was composed in 2000 and is one of the most-performed works by a living composer.
“The ‘Rainbow Body’ I think is a classic already,” Heyde said. “It’s really a fine piece; exciting, beautiful, haunting at times.”
“Rainbow Body” was inspired by the music of medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen.
Theofanidis has described the piece as “dramatic and developmental.”
“There are three distinct styles in this program,” he said. “I like that, a lot of diversity in the programming.”
He said he couldn’t pick a favorite piece.
“I like them all,” he said. “They’re like your children. At my age I don’t program anything I don’t like.”
Heyde is excited about the concert.
“It represents an opportunity for real growth in the orchestra, especially with the Bartók,” he said.
Gómez said he’s anxious about the concert, and excited that his family and girlfriend are coming from his native Mexico.
Heyde said he thinks the audience will like what Gómez can do with the concerto.
“He’s exceptional,” Heyde said.
Heyde likens a Baylor Symphony Orchestra concert to a Baylor football game in certain respects. He said both are the culmination of countless hours of hard work and dedication. You go to both not only to be entertained but to support your peers in their endeavors.
“I think that would be a source of pride for the student body,” Heyde said. “It should be at least.”
For Gómez, the concert will be the result of about a year’s worth of practicing. He said he spent at least three hours a day working on the concerto, especially at the beginning.
“You try to pile everything you’ve learned into such a little amount of time,” he said.
Gómez said he’s very excited to perform in front of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I’m glad to be doing this with Maestro Heyde and Bruce Berg. It feels good.”
Gómez said he hopes the audience will enjoy the concert.
“Most of all, we do it for the love of music,” he said. “We like to be onstage and share with others.”
The concert is free and open to the public.