Piano trio tangos its way to state competition at Golden Empire Festival

Shimin Zhang
Juniors Chardonnay Needler (cello) and Allison Zhang (violin) and senior Atsuo Chiu (piano) commence “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla.

A piano trio earned a gold award and two other groups earned silvers at the annual Golden Empire Festival on March 3.

The Festival was hosted in Capistrano Hall at Sacramento State University.

The three groups performed consecutively  in Room 151 – the choral room. The room was as big as the Matthews Library, and the stage area was comfortably positioned in the front of the room.

Orchestra teacher Felecia Keys said she liked the room.

“I prefer (Room 151) over a classroom or a big stage,” she said.  “This room (has an intimate) feel and has the setting of a chamber performance.”

Adjudicators scored the performing groups in six categories: tone, intonation, technique, balance, interpretation and musical effect. For each category, the group was ranked from I-V, I being the best.

The piano trio with senior Atsuo Chiu (piano) and juniors Chardonnay Needler (cello) and Allison Zhang (violin) played “Oblivion” by Astor Piazzolla.

“Oblivion” is one of Piazzolla’s most renowned tangos. According to Keys, the group decided on the piece early in the year so they had more time to perfect their playing.

(Photo used by permission of Zhang)
Anna Presler, a music professor at California State University, Sacramento, critiques freshmen Erin Wilson (cello) and Sarina Rye (violin), sophomore Shimin Zhang (piano) and senior Yasmin Gupta (violin).

“(The piece) has a lot of opportunities for individual expression, which (the performers) all do very well,” Keys said.

Needler said she was content with their performance.

“Overall we performed really well.” she said. “Our sound (projected) evenly, but (since) it’s a live performance – no matter how you prepare – it’s still common to make small mistakes.”

According to Needler, the same judge critiqued them last year.

“(The judge) is very emotive; she has a way of singing the parts during her critiquing,” said Needler. “She treated all the (performing groups) as though they were professionals and not school-aged amateurs.”

The second trio was comprised of sophomores Shimin Zhang (piano) and Emma Boersma (violin) and freshman Elise Sommerhaug (violin). They performed the second and third movements of “Trio No. 1 in D minor” by Robert Schumann.

Schumann’s trio was originally written for violin, cello and piano. However, according to Keys, since the trio didn’t have a cellist, the score was modified for a violinist to substitute for the cello part. She said the rhythm was also challenging for the pianist. Zhang had to keep her rhythm – which was mainly quarter notes – in sync with the violinist, who played triplets.

(Photo used by permission of Zhang)
Sophomores Shimin Zhang (piano) and Emma Boersman (violin) and freshman Elise Sommerhaug (violin) play the second movement of Robert Schumann’s “Trio No. 1 in D minor.”

“It wasn’t perfect, but they (played through the piece). (Rhythmic errors) probably affected their scores.” Keys said.

 The modified string quartet – senior Yasmin Gupta (violin), Zhang (piano) and freshmen Sarina Rye (violin) and Erin Wilson (cello) – performed three movements of “Sonata in D Major” by Giuseppe Tartini. Since the modified string quartet doesn’t have a violist, the group compensated with a violinist.

According to Keys, the group played with “wonderful musicality” but lacked the style required for Tartini’s sonata. The third movement of the piece contained consecutive trills in its melody, but the group played this “too ornamentally,” Keys said, “so that hindered the melodic aspect of the movement.”

 For the string quartet’s score sheet, three categories earned I ratings, while the other three earned II ratings. According to Keys, “One more (I rating) and (the quartet) would’ve won gold.”

 Overall, Keys said she was very satisfied with the performances of all three groups.

  “They all did better than I thought (they would),” she said. “(The performances were) all very good.”

—By Ming Zhu

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