In the spotlight

Timothy Muffitt conducts the Music School Festival Orchestra during its Week Two season-opening performance. Photo by Eve Edelheit.

MSFO’s second performance highlights two rising young musicians

Leah Rankin | Staff Writer

July 5’s premiere performance of the Music School Festival Orchestra introduced an energetic and versatile group of young musicians ready to take on the challenges of not only difficult but very diverse repertoire.

Tonight’s concert will once again display the astounding amount of progress the MSFO has made since its first concert, but it also will have some debuts of its own.

At 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, the MSFO will welcome the 2011 David Effron Conducting Fellow, Sarah Kidd, as well as the 2010 winner of the Sigma Alpha Iota Competition, pianist John Marcin.

“A conductor’s authority on the podium comes from his or her knowledge of the score,” said Timothy Muffitt, music director and conductor of the MSFO. “I’m anxious to see (Kidd) work with the orchestra and get to know how she thinks about music.”

Kidd, 24 years old and now an alumna of the The Juilliard School’s graduate-level conducting program, will lead the MSFO in “The Chairman Dances,” a contemporary work by minimalist composer John Adams.

“The Chairman Dances” is a work that sounds simple, beginning with a “Beetlejuice”-sounding pulse in the low strings and brass, but is rhythmically complex. Musicians must fight the hypnotic quality of the piece in order to navigate the rhythmic curveballs the composer requires.

“This can’t be a situation where you wait for the people in front of you to move,” Kidd said to the violin section during one afternoon rehearsal. “You have to be responsible for your own rhythm.”

Kidd said she loves to deconstruct music scores and study how each voice works together. She comes to the MSFO after experience as the assistant conductor of the New York Youth Symphony. The more she conducts, the more she likes it, she said.

Throughout her time in Chautauqua, Kidd will work with Muffitt on conducting techniques while she shares the podium with him for each remaining MSFO concert.

“Tim’s really interested in teaching,” Kidd said. “I feel like I can ask him anything, because he’s really open to explaining his process.”

Kidd said she appreciates the supportive environment in the School of Music just as much as Marcin, who will perform Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 tonight.

Marcin, who will attend The Eastman School of Music as a graduate student in the fall to study with piano teacher Rebecca Penneys, won the chance to perform this concerto after winning the SAI competition last year, his first year in Chautauqua.

“(Schumann’s piano concerto) was a very new piece that I just finished learning before the competition,” Marcin said. “It was pretty surprising to win.”

The pianist has only three rehearsals with the MSFO before performing the concerto onstage in the Amphitheater. It’s hard to know what to expect, he said, especially since he has never before performed as a soloist with an orchestra. But Marcin said he prefers to think of the performance as a “big learning experience.”

Tonight’s concert also will feature highlights from Richard Wagner’s opera The Ring of the Nibelung, as the program spotlights two young musicians making the transition from student to professional.