Triptych featuring Alice Hong, Chaowen Ting, and Joanna Cheng

New Commissions, Concerto Winner
Highlight Symphony Orchestra Concert

New Commissions, Concerto Winner
Highlight Symphony Orchestra Concert

Wes McRae | November 14, 2023 – Atlanta, GA 

The Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra's (GTSO) second concert of Fall 2023, Heimweh, continued to showcase living composers with world premieres of two new commissions from Alice Hong. The winner of this year's Concerto Competition, Joanna Cheng, was also the featured performer on Sergei Prokofiev's "Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor."

The concert opened with Landfall, a Tech-commissioned work. "Landfall is about the joy, the bravery, the turbulence, the heartbreak, the heartwarming, the uncertainty, the sense of wonder, nostalgia, love, and finality that come with the process of saying good-bye," said Hong.

Hong, an Atlanta-based violinist and composer, first composed Phoenix as a work for solo violin, and she then orchestrated it into an orchestral work (with no solo), said Chaowen Ting, director of orchestral studies. "The version that we commissioned and will premiere is a violin concerto, a combination of the two previous versions."

"A concerto derives from the Latin root of concertare meaning competition or to combat. However its Italian root concertare means 'to harmonize, to come to an agreement.' A concerto in music is exactly both — the solo voice (here the violin solo) and the orchestra are competition for musical attention but also come into agreement in presenting a work."

"I am a passionate advocate for living composers, and the Tech orchestra program has given many premieres in the past," said Ting. "This year (2023-24) is my tenth year at GT as the orchestra director. As a celebration of the decade, I decided to feature one Asian woman composer on every concert to honor my roots and to bring more diversity into the music program."

The Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra performs Alice Hong's Landfall and Phoenix, with an introduction by Chaowen Ting.

Following Hong's work, Cheng performed the Prokofiev piece with which she won the School of Music's Concerto Competition, held annually in February. Cheng, a second year Computer Science major, has played piano since she was five.

"The Prokofiev piece is not a very tonal piece so it might not make a lot of sense to listen to at first," Cheng said. "And that was like the same thing with me. The first several times I played it, it didn't make a lot of sense to me, but after I learned it and worked through it, it's become one of my favorite concertos."

"Now I really love it, which is why I wanted to compete with it."

"Over the last couple of weeks, I've been rehearsing with the orchestra, and it's been exciting to hear it all come together," Cheng said. "And it's exciting to play with an orchestra, which I've never done before."

The Georgia Tech Symphony Orchestra performs Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, featuring Joanna Cheng on piano.

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