Student recital shines spotlight on soloists, group ensembles

Cellist Megan Yip made her Chautauqua Institution debut on June 30 as a highlight of NPR’s “From the Top.” Now, she’s premiering on a smaller stage with a piece she’s been itching to perform — Chopin’s “Sonata for Cello and Piano.”

“ ‘From the Top’ was fun — I played Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words, Op. 62, No. 5. It’s originally for piano, but mine was transcribed for cello,” said Yip, a rising sophomore at Juilliard School of Music. “Now, I’ve started to get a hang of the place — there’s so much to do — and this is actually a piece I’ve been dying to play for a long time?’ ”

For Yip, having a chance to perform in solo recitals as well as work with an orchestra, in chamber music groups and as part of collaboration with dancers and singers is incredible.

“I didn’t expect to come here for the summer,” Yip said. “When I heard about Chautauqua, I thought, ‘It has chamber and orchestra. Yeah — why not apply?’ ”

Music School Festival Orchestra students have the option to perform their solo repertoire in student recitals this coming week — 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 4 p.m. Thursday, 2:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16. All four recitals are in McKnight Hall and benefit the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.

Kanae Matsumoto will perform the piano part in the Chopin sonata.

The piece is challenging both for cello and piano, Yip said.

“It’s a good fusion of singing and being vibrant, but still maintaining vigor behind it,” she said. “It’s hard for both piano and cello — there’s so much intensity and conviction.”

Garret Jones, a clarinetist and second-year master’s student at the University of Michigan, will be doing something a little different from typical solo recitals. He and an ensemble of violinists John Heffernan and Lauren Pulcipher, violist Sarah Cornett and cellist Kellen Degnan will be performing Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115.

“This was a group I formed on my own, just for fun,” Jones said. “It’s a string quartet with clarinet — its own ensemble — and the Brahms piece is a little unique in that it’s more important for everybody, not just clarinet.”

While this is a chamber music group, Jones said they’ve been working on this piece since the beginning of the season and had other assigned chamber music groups during the School of Music’s chamber music phases.

The Brahms piece typically runs for 35 minutes. The quintet is only performing the first two movements, which is still a huge amount of music to learn, Jones said. Their collaboration has been interesting — especially in trying to learn what the other types of musicians need.

“We have to breathe,” Jones said. “We all strive to play like string players, keeping our sound going like that of a bow. But it’s really important for them to learn to play with woodwinds because we do have to breathe when they don’t.”

Either as an ensemble or as soloists, students who sign up for a recital slot are given the chance to showcase themselves. For Jones, it’s all in good fun.

“I think we all work really well. We’re so goofy, and we all just really like each other,” Jones said. “This has been my favorite festival I’ve been to — it’s just great we have the opportunity to be around and work with other musicians.”