Last MSFO student recital to showcase solo repertoire

German composer Johannes Brahms began composing at the age of 11, and he’s considered one of the Romantic Period’s most revered musicians. Yet, he only wrote two cello sonatas during his 64-year lifespan.

Of his two cello sonatas, Hanna Rumora disliked both of them. For a time, at least.

“The first couple of times I heard it, I hated it,” Rumora said of Brahms’ Second Cello Sonata in F major.

Rumora, a cellist in the Music School Festival Orchestra, said she spent a week listening to someone else learn and rehearse it, and she grew annoyed with the piece.

Then, she rediscovered it this year.

“It’s so versatile — it’s pretty tricky,” Rumora said. “It’s interesting because I’m still not a big fan of his first.”

At 2 p.m. Sunday in McKnight Hall, MSFO students such as Rumora have the option to perform their solo repertoire in a recital. Chautauquans are welcome to these recitals to see students expose their talents and musical identities on a personal level, and as with all other student recitals, the event benefits the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.

Rumora will perform the sonata she has come to love. She described the piece as virtuosic, energetic, happy — something she’s comfortable with, especially with pianist Kanae Matsumoto on stage beside her.

“Kanae — she’s so good,” Rumora said. “Having someone up there backing you up — it’s relieving.”

Mary Grace Bender, another cellist in the MSFO, will perform Boccherini’s Cello Sonata in A major with Matsumoto on piano. She is an incredible collaborator and coach, Bender said.

The Boccherini piece tests Bender’s ability to play the cello in an awkward way. Putting the piece at such a high register makes it almost more suitable for a violin, Bender said.

“It’s up very high, it’s hard to tune, but at the same time, it has to sound very effortless,” Bender said. “I’m going to be nervous right up until I start playing. But once you start, you relax.”

Students like Bender look forward to performing solo repertoire in these recitals and interacting with the community. Knowing people in the audience — whether it be new friends, colleagues, teachers, Connections — excites the performers.

“I never know how to explain [Chautauqua] to people,” Bender said. “It’s hard to describe — it’s like Disney World for the arts.”

Jin Nakamura, an MSFO cellist who performed Mikhail Bukinik’s 4 Concert Etudes in a student recital on Thursday, said the Chautauqua Music Festival is “brilliant.” The combination of musical study blends perfectly with the friendly community. His Connections even have a personal tie to Japan, and he feels welcomed by them.

“One night, we had a traditional Japanese dinner,” Nakamura said. “I felt like I was in Japan — at home.”

A rising sophomore at the University of Michigan, Nakamura’s teacher recommended Chautauqua to him. At least 10 percent of students in the MSFO are studying at UM, and faculty members such as Caroline Coade and Aaron Berofsky will return there as well in the fall.

“It’s not only teaching cello, but he gave me advice,” Nakamura said. “I had many opportunities to talk to him about not only music but about my life. We talk about my experience in college, and we talk about going anywhere to play — it’s my dream. I want to do it all.”

While Disney World might be the happiest place on Earth, the School of Music is unlike anything Rumora has experienced before. The exposure to not only an orchestra made of gifted artists, but also to chamber music and solo opportunities is a highlight other festivals and university settings can’t always provide, she said.

“My interests are more toward chamber music, but the orchestra experience is very interesting to me because every section is just so strong,” Rumora said. “Everyone here can really play — it makes it possible to cover all this repertoire. It’s such a different environment than anything I’ve been in before.”