Photo courtesy Citrus Photo

U of C’s Daniel Szefer wins the 2018 Concerto Competition

By Jill Girgulis, March 16 2018 –

The 2018 edition of the annual Concerto Competition took place on March 13 at the University of Calgary. The contest, which started in 2006, is a collaboration between the U of C, the Mount Royal University (MRU) Conservatory and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). Each year, the winning musician receives mentorship and the chance to perform with the CPO in an upcoming season.

“Providing critical performing opportunities for young artists is one of the most important roles the CPO plays in the community. We are proud to partner with the University of Calgary on this project and each year look forward to the event as a chance to discover wonderful local talents,” says Paul Dornian, CPO president and CEO. Dornian, along with the CPO’s resident conductor Karl Hirzer, served as the two-person jury for the night’s competition.

The evening featured performances from four rising musicians in Calgary — two U of C students and two high school members of the MRU Conservatory. Each finalist had the opportunity to perform all or part of a concerto with accompaniment from the CPO.

Sua Kwoun, a cellist from Bishop Carroll High School in the MRU Conservatory, opened the show with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Orchestra. Her musical endurance was put to the test with the piece’s extensive nature and she rose to the challenge, entering the final variation with even more energy than she started with.

Up next was oboist Cameron Wong, from Western Canada High School and the MRU Conservatory. He presented the second and third movements from Strauss’s Concerto for Oboe and Small Orchestra. Wong, one of the youngest finalists and the only wind soloist of the competition, gained confidence as the performance progressed, concluding his solo with a remarkable flourish. Seated only a few feet behind Wong during the piece was David Sussman, the CPO’s assistant principal oboist, who also happens to be Wong’s teacher. Witnessing Sussman beaming with pride while playing alongside his student was a truly heartwarming experience.

Daniel Dastoor, a U of C violinist, performed the first movement of the well-known Violin Concerto in D major by Tchaikovsky. Dastoor’s solo experience was highlighted by the movement’s several instances of complete orchestral silence, during which the young violinist was given the space to display his proficiency.

To round out what had already a spectacular evening, U of C pianist Daniel Szefer performed the first movement of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor. The piece began with a nearly three-minute orchestral introduction. This served to increase the anticipation of finally hearing Szefer’s first strike of the keys. After this commanding opening, it was hard not to enjoy the remainder of the performance that followed.

After a short intermission in the lobby of the Rosza Centre, audience members were invited back into the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, where Szefer was announced as the competition’s winner.  

“It’s always inspiring to see young talent achieve impressive performances and this was certainly the case during this year’s competition,” says Hirzer. “Daniel Szefer’s rendition of Chopin displayed his natural comfort on stage and clear technical control of the piano.”

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