Hays Daily News Review of my performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto

Fort Hays sends musical Valentines
Suspense and excitement reigned in Beach/Schmidt Valentine's evening as Maestro Benjamin Morris-Cline led the Hays Symphony Orchestra in a concert starring the three finalists of the fifth annual HSO Young Artist Competition. The orchestra had more time to rehearse for this concert and sounded better than ever. They began by performing a lesser-known orchestral suite by Ottorino Respighi, "Ancient Airs and Dances," Suite No. 1 sandwiched between two old favorites, Georges Bizet's "Prelude and Aragonaise" from "Carmen Suite No. 1 and "Wine, Women and Song Waltz" by Johann Strauss Jr. The Respighi was a joy from beginning to end. The orchestra was well-balanced, the entrances were on time and on pitch, and the melodies were delightful. The Bizet and Strauss went well, too. At last, after Orchestra President Mary Ridgway had thanked the HSO Guild for providing money for the contest prizes as well as scholarships for music students, it was time for the finalists to perform. Clarinetist Christopher Nichols, principal clarinetist of the 312th Army Band of Lawrence and a doctoral student at the University of Kansas, was the first to perform. Nichols chose the "Concerto for Clarinet in A Major" (K. 622) by Wolfgang A. Mozart, a piece that explores all possibilities of the instrument and tests the performer to the utmost. He played it flawlessly and won first prize, $500. Soprano Kathleen Steinert, a music education major at FHSU, is well-known to Hays audiences as a singer and instrumentalist. Kathleen sang two arias, "Deh vieni, non tardar" (Oh don't come too late) from Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" and "Steal me, sweet thief" from "The Old Maid and the Thief" by Gian Carlo Menotti. Although both arias are sung by a character who is a serving-girl yearning for a man to arrive, they are very different in mood. The Mozart maid sets up a romantic mood in order to set up the man, and the Menotti maid is furious with the man because he is too timid to act and she is not getting any younger. Steinert acted both roles impeccably and sang very well for the most part, but had a few minor problems with high notes. This did not prevent her from winning second prize, $300. Pianist Alec Tauscher, winner of a number of awards including the Kansas City Symphony Young Artist Competition, is a sophomore at the University of Kansas. Tauscher played the "Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor" (opus 18) by Sergei Rachmaninoff. His performance was technically fine but immature, and he did a good deal of unnecessary wiggling and twitching, presumably to show emotion. He won third prize, $200. The audience, pleased with the performance of the orchestra and all the contestants, gave the concert an ovation. This week, there will be two guest recitals in Palmer Hall: singer Lilliam Rodriquez, 7:30 p.m. today, and violinist Douglas Beyer, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Percussion Ensemble will perform 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Beach/Schmidt. Ruth Firestone is a supporter of music and theater in Hays. rfiresto@fhsu.edu