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Texas Music Festival Puts Classical Stars and Rising Young Artists Centerstage at University of Houston

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Houston’s thriving classical music scene was on full display at the University of Houston’s annual Texas Music Festival, which gathered young musicians from all over the world to train and perform with some of the most notable names in the music world today. 

The Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival (TMF), held at the UH Moores School of Music, features three weeks of intensive musical training and stunning performances from TMF Fellows, as well as from renowned faculty and guest artists. This year, Texas Music Festival debuted a number of new programs and events, continuing its decades-long legacy of serving talented young musicians right here in Houston. 

The Texas Music Festival Orchestra stands for a bow at the final concert of the Texas Music Festival (Photo by Jeff Grass)
The Texas Music Festival Orchestra stands for a bow at the final concert of the Texas Music Festival (Photo by Jeff Grass)

One of these new features was the Cynthia Woods Mitchell-Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition, which merged the previously separate Cynthia Woods Mitchell Young Artist Competition and Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition. TMF Fellows performed before a panel of distinguished artists from the Houston Symphony, including Adam Dinitz (English horn), Christopher French (cello), Nancy Goodearl (French horn, retired), Eric Halen (violin and co-concertmaster), Richard Harris (trumpet) and Sophia Silivos (violin).

Bassoonist Xayvion Davidson won first prize and Audience Favorite this year with a performance of Rossini’s Bassoon Concerto. Originally from Nashville, the 19-year-old Davidson just completed his first year at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. As the winner, he will be invited to perform with the Houston Symphony next season.

Flutist Lorien Britt — also 19, a Dallas native and student at the Manhattan School of Music — took second prize. Third prize went to Momoko Uchida, 22, a violinist and recent Mannes School of Music graduate. The remaining finalists were harpist Lily Primus, 20, and double bassist Colin Roberts, 19.

Mitchell-Hogg Competition third place winner Momoka Uchida, second place winner Lorien Britt, first place & Audience Favorite winner Xayvion Davidson, TMF director Alan Austin at the Texas Music Festival (Photo by Felipe Harker/University of Houston Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts)
Mitchell-Hogg Competition third place winner Momoko Uchida, second place winner Lorien Britt, first place & Audience Favorite winner Xayvion Davidson, TMF director Alan Austin at the Texas Music Festival (Photo by Felipe Harker/University of Houston Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts)

The TMF program features numerous guest artists and recitals, as well as chamber music concerts by the faculty every Thursday. This year, the inaugural Sharon Ley Lietzow Piano Series brought performances and masterclasses from McGovern Distinguished Artist and 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition winner Vadym Kholodenko, Naumberg prize winner Awadagin Pratt and Amy Yang, a Houston native and faculty at the esteemed Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

In a grand, fitting conclusion to the entire festival, the dynamic Maestro Andrew Grams joined the Texas Music Festival Orchestra on stage to lead a performance of Corsaire Overture by Hector Berlioz and Symphony No. 3 by Aaron Copland. A surprise performance from the Renegade Cello Octet opened the concert, thrilling the audience with a rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.

Davidson joined the orchestra as a soloist to perform the Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra Gioachino Rossini, playing with incredible tone and musical sensitivity.

The Renegade Cello Octet performing at the final concert at the Texas Music Festival (Photo by Jeff Grass)
The Renegade Cello Octet performing at the final concert at the Texas Music Festival (Photo by Jeff Grass)

The Festival Orchestra’s powerful performance of the Berlioz Corsaire Overture — one of the French composer’s most well-known works — was full of explosive energy and thrilling dynamic variance that kept the audience totally engrossed and stimulated. The Copland Symphony No.3, iconic for its distinctly Americana style, was equally well played. The rhythmic complexity of the work was executed beautifully, as were the contrasts in dynamics, character and intensity between each of the four movements.

Fittingly, the concert’s conclusion was met by overwhelming applause and a standing ovation. 

PC Seen: UH McGovern College of the Arts dean Andrew Davis, Rice University Shepherd School of Music dean Matthew Loden, TMF council chair Jo Dee Wright, former UH Moores School of Music director David White, Sharon and Robert Lietzow and Houston Post music critic Carl Cunningham.



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