Economics Major Wins First Place in 2010 University of Chicago Concerto Competition

Ph.D. student Alice Chen Performs Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with University Symphony Orchestra.

Hyde Park, IL, April 10, 2010 --( Making her Chicago orchestral debut with the University Symphony Orchestra, pianist Alice Chen performs Liszt’s flamboyant and poetic Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major on Saturday, April 24 at Mandel Hall (1131 E. 57th Street) at 8 p.m. The Ph.D. student is the First Place Winner of the University’s biennial Concerto Competition. Also included on the all-Liszt program are the exuberant Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and two symphonic poems, the fateful “Hamlet” and the ethereal “Orpheus.”

The innovative symphonic poems of Hungarian-born composer and pianist Franz Liszt‘s (1811-1886) belong at the core of most contemporary and popular music forms. During the preceding Classical era, all musical forms, including symphonies, concertos, etc., were structured in several movements, each with varying tempos and themes, that complemented one another yet were separated distinct pauses. Amidst the later-named Romantic era, Liszt devised a new sweeping single-movement form that carried the listener from beginning to end without such "dead" moments between. Of the thirteen tone poems Liszt composed with this structure, “Les Préludes” is the most famous, while “Hamlet” and “Orpheus” are considered among the best.

Liszt’s rich, lush blanket of sound represented a strikingly new and compelling voice in the Romantic era. His music both set the standard for pianists and impacted future generations, who sought to make his genius accessible to younger audiences. One way to accomplish this goal was through a new medium: cartoons. In fact, Liszt’s works took on a central role in popular culture starting with the 1929 Mickey Mouse short “The Opry House,” which broadcast the first appearance of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" in a cartoon. At that time, of course, cartoons featured no dialogue; soundtracks accompanied the main characters’ frivolity and aided the visual black and white reeled gags. However, in “The Opry House,” Mickey Mouse performed the Liszt work, a scene that differentiated and balanced his physical size and his intellectual capacity. Almost 20 years later, the work played a similar supporting role when performed by Bugs Bunny in “Rhapsody Rabbit,” positing 19th-century Liszt as an influential contemporary. The benefits of Liszt’s music in cartoons educated younger audiences worldwide, cementing the European musical tradition in Western culture and acclimating children’s ears to classical music with cartoon antics of such characters as Tom and Jerry, Woody Woodpecker, The Smurfs, and more.

Alice Chen, piano
Alice Chen began her piano studies at age four and attended the International Theodor Leschetizky Summer Academy in Vienna at age nine. She has won first place in many piano competitions, including the World Piano Competition at Cincinnati, the International Los Angeles Liszt Competition, and several California state piano competitions. She was also a winner in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2004 Bronislaw Kaper Awards, and was selected to become a member of the Music Teacher’s Association of California Young Artist Guild.

In addition to performing in Carnegie Hall and the Annual Grammy Salute to Classical Music Luncheon, Alice has performed twelve times as a soloist with orchestras throughout California at their Young Artist Concerts. Her primary music instruction has been with University of Southern California music professor Norman Kreiger.

Alice earned both an AB and SM in Applied Math at Harvard in 2008 and is now a second-year Ph.D. student studying economics at the Booth School of Business.

Alice Chen is one of five competition winners from 2010. Flutist Cliff Boldridge performs Griffes' Poem for Flute and Orchestra with the University Chamber Orchestra (UChO) on Saturday, May 22 at 8 p.m. Violinist Frank Wen performs Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor with the USO in Fall 2010, and violinist Emily Norton and bassist Kirsten Paige perform Bottesini's “Passione amorosa” with the UChO next autumn.

Quick Facts

What: University Symphony Orchestra
Liszt Into Spring
Barbara Schubert, conductor
Alice Chen, solo pianist
First Place Winner of the 2010 Concerto Competition

When: Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 8:00 PM

Where: Mandel Hall
1131 E. 57th St., on the University of Chicago campus

Admission: Donations requested: $10 / $5 students and children.

Event Hotline: 773.702.8069 •

Persons who require assistance should call in advance: 773.702.8484.

University of Chicago Department of Music
Rashida N. Black