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Young competition winners featured at tomorrow's Livermore symphony

Amador Valley cellist, Dublin violinist take first-place in annual contest

"Color and Romance," Livermore-Amador Symphony's second concert of its 53rd season, will take place tomorrow at the Bankhead Theater with Lara Webber conducting.

The program includes music of Christopher Theofanidis, Camille Saint-Saens and Johannes Brahms and will feature the winners of the symphony's 2015-16 Competition for Young Musicians: cellist Jiho Choi, a junior at Amador Valley High School, and violinist Dong Hui (Tony) Kim, a Dublin High junior.

The program begins with Theofanidis' "Rainbow Body."

"'Rainbow Body' is an extraordinarily beautiful, spiritually uplifting piece," Webber said. "He bases the work on a particularly evocative chant by Hildegard Von Bingen."

Next, Choi, 16, will perform the first movement of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1, considered one of the most difficult cello concertos. Choi, the daughter of Seung Lee and Hyung Choi, made her Carnegie Hall debut at age 14 as winner of the American Protege International Concerto Competition.

"When I have difficulty with interpreting a passage, I try to imagine the composer in the process of writing it, transcribing his raw emotions into melodies that can convey them to other," Choi said. "I'm always amazed how even across centuries those feelings are preserved and projected."

In 2013 and 2014 she attended the San Francisco Conservatory Pre-College Division with scholarships from Music@Menlo. During the 2014-15 school year, she earned first-place prizes at the state and regional rounds of the 2014 Music Teachers National Association Junior Strings Competition; won the Chinese Music Teachers' Association of Northern California's International Music Competition; and performed in the Junior Bach Festival. She currently studies under Jonathan Koh at the California Music Preparatory Academy.

Next on the concert program is Saint-Saens' "Danse Bacchanale" from his opera "Samson and Delilah." It opens with a haunting oboe solo, then picks up pace. The exotic oboe returns, then a flowing melody builds to an emotional climax.

Following intermission, Kim, 16, will perform the first movement of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, one of the most technically difficult.

"The reason I enjoy playing the piano and the violin is that doing so helps me convey the various emotions I feel," Kim said. "Whether I am happy, sad, or nostalgic, there is always a piece of music through which I can manifest such feelings."

Kim, the son of Sang and Sunny Kim, is concertmaster of his school orchestra and a first violinist in the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. He took first place in various categories in the 2013 U.S. Open Music Competitions and first place at the 2013 Korea Times Youth Music Competition, the Contemporary Division of the 2014 East Bay Piano Competition, and the 2014 U.S. International Music Competition.

He currently studies violin with Davis Law at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is secretary of the Bay Area Association of Visiting Musicians, sharing music with hospice patients at veterans' hospitals.

"Music, as an influential force throughout my life, has always been with me," Kim said. "This is why I seem to find my place as a performer -- I can share my musical experience with others through my playing in front of them."

The concert concludes with Brahms' "Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn."

"Each variation is a small masterwork in and of itself," said Conductor Webber, "but all are carefully connected, progressing as a series of character studies on the chorale theme presented at the beginning. A fantastic piece!"

For more information on the performance, call 373-6800 or visit www.bankheadtheater.org.

Editor's note: Patricia Boyle has won awards for her short stories and has been writing about the Livermore-Amador Symphony for three years.

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