Cerys Hudson, winner of the Juneau Symphony’s Youth Solo Competition, rehearses for this weekend’s performance with the ensemble at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)

Cerys Hudson, winner of the Juneau Symphony’s Youth Solo Competition, rehearses for this weekend’s performance with the ensemble at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)

Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Frankenstein join on stage for Juneau Symphony’s spring concert

Youth solo winner Cerys Hudson featured on cello concerto notable for its splicing of parts.

When Cerys Hudson says she’s into performing monster music, people probably wouldn’t be thinking of showing up at a symphony concert hall to hear her.

But that’s where Hudson, 17, will be featured this weekend as the winner of the Juneau Symphony’s Youth Solo Competition, performing Luigi Boccherini’s Cello Concerto No. 9 in B-flat Major as part of the ensemble’s Spring Mainstage Concert at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé.

“I love it because it’s a really tricky piece. Some people say it’s like a Frankenstein piece,” said Hudson, a junior at JDHS, during a rehearsal Thursday evening in the school’s auditorium.

The reason for that is because Hudson is playing the arrangement by German cellist Friedrich Grützmacher that incorporates samples from four different works, which adds to the already notorious four-plus octave tour of the cello’s entire playable range.

“In all octaves it goes all the way up, so I have to press so hard (at the top), and then it goes all the way down to the C string,” she said. “It just has every technique also. So it’s been the most challenging piece I’ve played so far in my life. And I’m so used to it now, I’ve been playing it for so long, so I knew this is the one I wanted.”

However, while Hudson said she started playing the piece two years ago, it will be a musical creature of an entirely different kind for her during the concerts Saturday and Sunday because they will be the first time she has performed it with an orchestra.

“I never played it with a school orchestra,” she said. “I mostly played it with piano, with my mom accompanying me. And playing it for the first time with a symphony my nerves were going so high because it’s so different. And I love it so much more, definitely.”

That said, Hudson, who began playing with the Juneau Alaska Music Matters (JAMM) program in kindergarten, isn’t a stranger to the big stage. In June of 2022, she and 24 of her peers performed a 30-minute program at Carnegie Hall after Juneau was among four nationwide student groups selected to participate in the four-day Sounds of Summer International Music Festival.

This weekend’s concert is titled “Tchaikovsky 5” since, as the name suggests, the showcase composition is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5. One description of the piece declares it “portrays a struggle with Fate, (although) the outcome seems far more positive than that depicted in the Fourth and Sixth Symphonies,” which Christopher Koch, the Juneau Symphony’s music director, said is a common association.

”Tchaikovsky was experimenting with a lot of ideas en route to the 5th symphony, some of which ascribed ‘fate’ or ‘what if’ connotations to certain motives,” Koch wrote in an email interview. “He discarded most of these, but the ‘fate’ association lives on.”

When asked what about the composition makes it fitting for a spring performance, Koch noted “more than anything, the 5th is a supremely dynamic and passionate work that shows Tchaikovsky at the height of his powers. No spring associations exactly, but we’re certainly celebrating music education.”

The symphony will also perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Overture to “The Magic Flute” and the Juneau youth ensemble Aurora Strings will join the symphony to perform selections from Georges Bizet’s L’Arlésienne Suite #2. The latter, while now common in classical programs, is notorious for a less-than-stellar debut.

“The Daudet play for which Bizet wrote the incidental music was not well received (and was quite depressing IMO), but even at the time, everyone agreed the music was sublime,” Koch wrote. “Two orchestral suites were created from it, both of which remain widely popular. We selected portions of it for our side-by-side with Juneau String Ensembles/Aurora Strings because they are quite tuneful and great picks for the students.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Know and Go

What: Juneau Symphony’s Spring Mainstage Concert: “Tchaikovsky 5”

When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Pre-concert conversation one hour before the show.

Where: Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé auditorium.

Tickets: Available online at www.juneausymphony.org and at the door.

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