As classical music continues its reappraisal of forgotten female composers, unfamiliar names keep turning up on concert programs. That will be the case at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Sunday, Sept. 17, when the American Youth Symphony opens its 2023–2024 season with the Piano Concerto in D Minor by Vítězslava Kaprálová.
It was composed in 1935, when the Czech composer was only 20 years old. Reviewing a recent recording of the piece, MusicWeb International called it a “substantial work” that “exudes confidence, passion, and exuberance.”
Rosalind Wan Wong, the soloist for the performance, called the piece “fantasia-like in its construction, influenced by many great composers of her time.” She noted that Kaprálová died only five years after its premiere, cutting short a potentially brilliant career.
“She deserves to be championed,” Wong said.
Like Kaprálová, Wong is a composer as well as a performer. A former student of Richard Danielpour, she has written scores for video games, commercials, and short films. She earned a doctorate in piano performance from UCLA, under the mentorship of Inna Faliks.
The 6:30 p.m. concert, which also features Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1 and Brahms’s First Symphony, will be conducted by Music Director Carlos Izcaray, whose contract was recently extended through the 2026–2027 season.
Like Gustavo Dudamel and Rafael Payare, his counterparts at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Diego Symphony, Izcaray is a native of Venezuela and a product of that nation’s renowned El Sistema youth orchestra program. He is also music director of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra in Birmingham.
Made up of young musicians from around the world, AYS was founded in 1964 by conductor Mehli Mehta, father of Zubin. Prominent alumni include Cynthia Phelps, principal viola of the New York Philharmonic; Sheryl Staples, principal associate concertmaster of that same orchestra; Jonathan Moerschel, violist of the Calder Quartet; and John Walz, principal cellist with LA Opera.
AYS’s Royce Hall season continues Nov. 4 with a live performance of John Williams’s score to Jurassic Park as the Steven Spielberg film is screened. It will conclude April 27, 2024, with Gabriela Lena Frank’s Contested Eden and Gustav Mahler’s sprawling Seventh Symphony. An evening of music by chamber ensembles from within the orchestra will take place in February.
Tickets to the September and April concerts are pay-what-you-can; a $20-per-ticket donation is suggested. Tickets to Jurassic Park are $20. For more information, visit the American Youth Symphony’s website or call (310) 470-2332.