Young soloists:

Felkl, Kreiss-Tompkins star in Juneau Symphony opener

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2005

Juneau-Douglas High School freshman Franz Felkl and Sitka High School junior Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins take center stage this weekend as the featured soloists in the opening concert of the Juneau Symphony's 2005-2006 season.

The two students were co-winners of the symphony's June 4 Youth Concerto Competition, and in a remarkable twist, both won with selections by the Romantic-era German composer Max Bruch.

Felkl will play the "Violin Concerto in G Minor," one of the most popular Romantic-era violin concertos of all time. Kreiss-Tomkins will play cello on "Kol Nidre," a traditional Jewish tune based on a chant for Yom Kippur.

"It was a wonderful coincidence," Juneau Symphony conductor Kyle Wiley Pickett said, of the shared interest in Bruch. "These are the strongest youth concerto winners we've ever had, and I think people will be really impressed. They play with an emotional maturity that's definitely above their age."

The season openers - 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, at Juneau-Douglas High School - also include Benjamin Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from the opera "Peter Grimes" and Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7," the grand finale.

"In some ways, the Britten and Beethoven is an interesting combination," Wiley Pickett said. "They're sort of foils for each other. There in different style, but they're both about rhythm."

Wiley Pickett has been waiting for a chance to conduct the "Four Sea Interludes," a technically and musically difficult selection that's not performed often.

"It's one of my favorite pieces, and actually, I've kind of been waiting until we were ready to play it," he said. "One of the things that's difficult is they look different on the page than how they sound. It takes a while for everybody to get comfortable with that."

Britten (1913-1976) wrote "Peter Grimes" about a fisherman struggling with his community. The interludes are broken into four elemental parts - "Dawn," "Sunday morning" "Moonlight" and "Storm."

in concert

juneau symphony

what: 2005-06 season opener.

when: 8 p.m. on saturday, oct. 29, and 3 p.m. on sunday, oct. 30, concert conversations begin one hour before each performance.

where: at juneau-douglas high school auditorium.

tickets: in advance, $18 general admission, $14 for students and seniors, at hearthside books or on the web at at the door, $20 general admission, $16 for students and seniors, $12 for children age 12-younger at sunday's matinee.

on the radio: ktoo-fm will air sunday's performance live at 3 p.m. a web cast is available at

"Britten grew up on the ocean and lived on the ocean and when he set out to write this opera he wanted to write about the struggles of men and women who make their living from the ocean," Wiley Pickett said. "All four of them just fit so well with Juneau. You get the dawn with the early morning, and Sunday morning with church bells and the moonlight and then the storm. Everybody can relate to the settings."

Beethoven began the "Symphony No. 7 in A Major" in 1811 while on sabbatical in Teplica, a spa town in the modern-day Slovak Republic. He completed the work in 1812 and it premiered Dec. 8, 1913, in Vienna, with Beethoven conducting. The piece is known for its spry, quasi-danceable rhythms and its unexpected shifts, but it was rather ahead of its time. Upon hearing it, the composer Carl Maria von Weber famously said Beethoven was "now quite ripe for the madhouse."

"The 'madhouse' statement is because Beethoven used what would have been considered to be really strange keys," Wiley Pickett said. "Every key that you play has sort of its own solar system - its own group of neighbor keys. Beethoven went pretty far outside of that solar system in this piece. The effect is there's just a nice sense of release of tension that's really neat."

"The 7th symphony is the most modern symphony, and it doesn't really sound that way to us, because it's hard for anything to sound modern after you've heard the 'Rites of Spring' or something like that," he said. "But he was really pushing the boundaries of what had been done at the time. In fact I think everyone who came after him, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Schumann, Schubert, they all owe a lot to the 7th symphony."

Bruch (1838-1920), a German composer, wrote more than 200 works but may be best known for the "Violin Concerto in G minor," one of the most popular Romantic-era violin concertos of all time.

Felkl was also a co-winner of the 2002 Youth Concerto Competition and was the featured soloist in Haydn's "Violin Concerto No. 1 in C" during the symphony's 40th anniversary concert, April 4-5, 2003. Now 14, he's been a regular section violinist in the orchestra for the last year.

Felkl has played violin for 10 years. His teacher, Guo Hua Xia, suggested the "Concerto in G Minor" about a year ago. The symphony performed the piece at its Feb. 3, 2001, show, with Linda Rosenthal as the featured soloist.

"It's just a great piece with a lot of emotion, and you can put a lot of yourself into the piece," Felkl said. "People do it lots of different ways. I listened to recordings and then took off and did what I felt was right."

Kreiss-Tomkins, 16, performed with the symphony as a section cellist this January. He's been studying cello for four years and also plays bass and oboe in his high school's jazz band and wind ensemble. His teacher, Roger Schmidt, recommended "Kol Nidre," a traditional Jewish tune based on a chant for Yom Kippur.

Bruch was a Protestant but enjoyed arranging European folk songs of various traditions.

"It was just the same as playing a piece from a period of music that I've never played before," said Kreiss-Tomkins, of taking on a traditional tune. "It combines very melodic and beautiful fluid harmonies with fast and intense, passionate parts. It kind of has it all. It really displays a lot of possibilities with the cello."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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