Who: Violinist Alexi Kenney and pianist Hilda Huang, winners of the Young Artists Competition
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15
Where: Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
Tickets: $35 general, $17.50 students; www.mondaviarts.org, (530) 754-2787
The two performers who won the highest honors in the 2010 Young Artists Competition at the Mondavi Center — violinist Alexi Kenney and pianist Hilda Huang — will be featured in recitals at the Mondavi Center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15.
Kenney won the grand prize in the competition’s senior division (grades 9-12). Born in 1994, Kenney grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and started playing the violin at age 4. He was the concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2010-11.
He also has performed at festivals including Music@Menlo and Napa Valley’s Festival del Sole, and has appeared on the nationally syndicated NPR radio show “From The Top,” which features young artists.
Kenney has studied both baroque and modern violin, and he has performed a number of premieres, including a piece by Steven Mackey, who studied music as an undergraduate at UC Davis, and is on the music faculty at Princeton.
Kenney is now a student at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he has performed as the concertmaster of the NEC Symphony and won the chamber music Honors Ensemble competition with his string quartet, which will perform at NEC’s Jordan Hall in February.
Huang, who won the 2010 Young Artists Competition’s junior division (grades 4-8) also hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Now a student at Palo Alto High School, she started playing the piano at age 3.
She made her debut at Carnegie Hall at age 11, as part of the “From The Top” television series on PBS, and also has appeared on the NPR radio version of “From The Top.”
Huang is particularly interested in the music of J.S. Bach, and in March 2010 she was awarded the top prize in the Seventh International J.S. Bach Competition in Wurzburg, Germany, becoming the first American and the youngest prize winner in that competition’s 20-year history.
She also has appeared with the Cincinnati Pops under the baton of Erich Kunzel.
In addition to the piano, Huang studies the harpsichord — an appropriate choice, given her interest in Bach — under Corey Jamason of the San Francisco Conservatory. Jamason is familiar to Davis audiences for this numerous appearances locally with the American Bach Soloists.
Huang also has conducted the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra in a family concert, and has been invited to conduct the San Francisco Bach Choir.
Pianist Lara Downes, who performs regularly at the Mondavi Center and organizes the Young Artists Competition, said, “Both Alexi and Hilda are remarkable young musicians, mature and sensitive far beyond their years, intellectually curious, musically courageous and deeply committed to their life in music.
“Hilda plays with an intensity that is absolutely arresting. She’s a tremendously physical pianist whose musicality operates on an almost visceral level,” Downes continued.
“Alexi has a certain grace in his playing that is wonderful to experience. He’s one of those players who makes a performance seem effortless and yet deeply emotional, at the same time.”
The prize-winning young artists will appear in recital at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15. Tickets are $35 general, $17.50 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787.
Pre-performance talks featuring composer Matt McBane in conversation with Downes are planned at 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.