2017 Concerto Competition Review

By McKenna Shuler, SMTD Publicity Intern
The 2017 Concerto Competition, held in Feb., featured riveting music performed by three CSU Music student finalists – Joe Jones, Julius Hochmuth, and Frangel López Ceseña – and the CSU Sinfonia, conducted by Wes Kenney. Each performance was incredibly well-executed, but in the end it was Frangel who was awarded the top prize for his performance of the violin concerto Fratres by Arvo Pärt.

According to Frangel, who is a master’s student at CSU, this is not the first time he has performed the piece. “I picked [Fratres] with the help of Cuauhtémoc Rivera Guzmán, my undergraduate teacher in Mexico,” he said. “We were looking for an interesting virtuoso piece to play in the National Violin Competition of Mexico ‘Tomás Ruíz Ovalle’ 2014, where I actually had the fortune of winning [first place].” And now, just a few short years later, Frangel returned to the piece in order to feel more confident in his performance.

Frangel prepared for the Concerto Competition with the help of his teacher, Ron Francois, associate professor of violin at CSU. Professor Francois provided Frangel with direction and advice in re-learning the piece. “He taught me new perspectives of the piece to develop my interpretation, as well as useful tips to understand better Pärt´s language,” Frangel said.

As a foreign student, it has been difficult for Frangel to come so far. However, winning the Concerto Competition has offered him a great deal of encouragement. “As a foreign student that has [made] a lot of sacrifice[s] to have a space in the U.S., winning this competition makes me feel that I have [made] the right decision, and also, it is a catalyst of energy to continue studying, harder each time,” he said. To sum up his experience in a single word, winning the competition represents hope.

Being a foreign student might put some at a disadvantage, but the language of music is universal. Through music, we can open doors into other cultures and learn about ourselves and others. Understanding the messages of the composer helped Frangel to secure the top position in competition.

“I confirmed that Arvo Pärt composes music full of emotion and mysticism,” he said. “I made my best effort to communicate those characteristics to the audience that did not know so much about Pärt´s music, and I had great comments about the piece itself, but believe me, the real magic was made by this monk-like Estonian composer.” Describing Pärt as “monk-like” comes as no surprise, as Fratres takes inspiration from Gregorian chanting. The title also comes from the Latin word for ‘brother.’

At the end of the day, Frangel credits the composer with the victory. “In my opinion the real winner of 2017’s competition is Pärt,” he said.

That is not to say that Pärt did all the work. Frangel dedicated himself to the artistry of the piece, something that really shone through on the stage. He presented a mystical, otherworldly piece and breathed life into it with a stroke of his bow.

Overall, the competition was very close, but Frangel was truly deserving of the win.

Finalists and Repertoire for the 2017 Concerto Competition

Joe Jones, Eric Sammut’s Sugaria: Concerto for Solo Marimba
Julius Hochmuth, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, Mvt 1,3,4
Frangel Cesera, violin, Arvo Pärt’s Fratres