Young musicians take charge

Symphony features two new artists, two major works

North State Symphony Young Artist Award-winner Chris Navarrete shines on Johann Baptist Georg Neruda’s Concerto in E-flat for Trumpet and Strings.

North State Symphony Young Artist Award-winner Chris Navarrete shines on Johann Baptist Georg Neruda’s Concerto in E-flat for Trumpet and Strings.


North State Symphony, New American Portraits, Saturday, Nov. 16, at Laxson Auditorium.

Every year one of the North State Symphony’s four seasonal concerts spotlights the winners of its annual Young Artist Award competition. This is a much-coveted opportunity for a couple of young musicians to perform with a full orchestra in front of large audiences. It’s impossible not to root for them.

Saturday evening (Nov. 16) at Chico’s Laxson Auditorium, cellist Kira Weiss, winner of last year’s high-school contest, and trumpeter Chris Navarrete, winner of the college competition, got their moments to shine.

Weiss, now a freshman at the University of Puget Sound, has played with the symphony for two years and studied for eight years with its principal cellist, Carol Jacobson. She chose to perform the first movement from …douard-Victoire-Antoine Lalo’s Cello Concerto in D minor (1876), a demanding and, at times, devilishly difficult piece with many rapid arpeggios and quick sixteenth notes. She handled them with aplomb and attacked her instrument with gusto, refusing to allow it to be overwhelmed by the orchestra. It was a fine performance by the 18-year-old.

Navarrete followed, playing the Concerto in E-flat for Trumpet and Strings, by the 18th-century Bohemian composer Johann Baptist Georg Neruda. This was another challenging work, in part because it featured several difficult extended solos during which Navarrete’s playing had to stand on its own. Like Weiss, he rose to the occasion, and the audience rewarded him with enthusiastic applause.

Navarrete, who is from Redding, is a graduate student at Chico State, having received a bachelor’s degree in music performance and education, and jazz studies in May. He’s student teaching in the Teaching Credential Program but also plans to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees in music.

The theme for the concert was New American Portraits. It didn’t apply to Weiss’ and Navarrete’s performances, but it was certainly appropriate for the two major works on tap—Mexican composer Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2 and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3.

The program opened with the Márquez piece, which has become one of the two most popular danzones in the danzón repertory (the other is Copland’s own Danzón Cubano), ever since the conductor Gustavo Dudamel included it on the program of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra during its 2007 tour of Europe and the United States.

Márquez, who was born in Mexico in 1950 but spent his younger years in Southern California (he now lives in Mexico City), has said of the piece, “This music is a tribute to all that gives birth to the danzón [a dance of Cuban origin which has enjoyed great popularity in Mexico. I] approach the dance rhythms in the closest possible way … to express my respect and emotivity toward genuine popular music.”

It’s a sprightly piece, full of rollicking dance rhythms and colorful melodies. Echoes of the habanera and contra-dance can be heard, and even, as some have suggested, hints of the Argentinian tango, which is derived from the habanera rhythm. It was obvious that the musicians were enjoying playing it, and the audience ate it up.

The evening concluded with Copland’s huge symphony, his last, which premiered in 1946 and has since become the best known American symphony of the 20th century. Composed as World War II was ending, it combines elements of the classical European symphony with his distinctively “Americana” style found in such ballets as Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid and Rodeo. It does this primarily by incorporating Copland’s earlier “Fanfare for the Common Man,” composed in 1942, into the fourth-movement finale, while also including fragments of the “Fanfare” in the other three movements.

Copland once said that the work was “intended to reflect the euphoric spirit of the time,” and it certainly does that. To their credit, conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett, who was suffering from laryngitis and couldn’t talk but otherwise was in fine form, and the North State Symphony did it full justice, moving through the complex piece with confidence and skill. Once again, they demonstrated that they have become one of the finest regional orchestras in the country.