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UW Symphony and Concerto Competition Winners

Friday, April 28, 2023 - 7:30pm
$10 all tickets.
  • David A. Rahbee conducts the UW Symphony

David Alexander Rahbee conducts the UW Symphony and winners of the 2023 UW Concerto Competition in a program of music by Camille Saint-Saëns, Alfred Desenclos, Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Franz Schmidt, and Richard Wagner. Featuring Concerto Competition winners Dalma Ashby, violin; Katie Zundel, baritone saxophone; and Michael Gu, piano. With Daren Weissfisch and Ryan Farris, assistant conductors. 


Hector Berlioz: Rákóczy March from La damnation de Faust

Camille Saint-Saëns: Violin Concerto No.3, op.61, in B minor
III. Molto moderato e maestoso; Allegro non troppo 
Dalma Ashby, violin

Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto No.1, in E-flat major 
Michael Gu, piano


Alfred DesenclosPrélude, cadence et finale (orchd by Russell Peterson) 
Katie Zundel, baritone saxophone

Franz Schmidt: Intermezzo from Notre Dame

Richard Wagner: Prelude to Act 1 of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Soloist Biographies

Catherine “Dalma” Ashby is a senior studying violin performance at the University of Washington School of Music. She currently holds the concertmaster position in the UW Symphony Orchestra and has been a member of the ensemble since she joined the University of Washington in 2020. Ashby was the runner-up for the UW School of Music Concerto Competition in 2022 and served as concertmaster in the NAfME All-Northwest Orchestra in She is a student of Rachel Lee Priday and is a frequent performer of chamber music within the School of Music. Ashby is a Seattle native and graduate of Shorecrest High School with a deep fascination with the visual arts, in addition to her passion for instrumental performance. She currently teaches violin lessons and has experience in Korean language tutoring, publication, graphic design, modeling, and pageantry. After graduation, she plans to pursue a master's degree in violin performance as well as continue teaching.

Michael Gu is a freshman pursuing Computer Science and Piano Performance at the University of Washington under the tutelage of Dr. Robin McCabe. Beginning his musical studies at the age of 5 in his hometown of Corvallis, Oregon, Gu had the opportunity to study with both Joan Gathercoal and Dr. Rachelle McCabe. In 2022, he received the Chopin Award at the national round of the Music Teachers National Association Piano Competition and performed as a concerto soloist with the Portland Youth Philharmonic at the Arlene Schnitzer Hall upon winning the Portland Piano International Concerto Competition the year prior. He has studied at prestigious summer programs including the Aspen Music Festival, Colburn School, Seattle Piano Institute, and the John Perry Academy. He also appeared in masterclasses for world-renowned pianists such as Yoheved Kaplinksy, Julian Martin, John Perry, and Yeol Eum Son. As an active community member, Gu founded Musicians for Humanity, a non-profit run at two Oregon high schools dedicated to supporting local music education, and recently performed a two piano rendition of Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. Outside of his academic studies, Gu is the co-founder of DEV[0], a student-run organization, as well as an avid tennis player.

Katie Zundel is a second-year saxophone student studying under Michael Brockman. She has been playing saxophone for nine years and has previously worked with Neil Welch. She is pursuing dual degrees: a Bachelor of Music in Saxophone Performance and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. She can most frequently be seen performing classical baritone saxophone which she specializes in, but she enjoys playing all other kinds of saxophones as well. She is from Whidbey Island, where she has won several music awards, such as the Island Consort’s Young Musician Award in 2020 and the Ed Bridges Memorial Music Scholarship in 2021. Previously she was invited to play in the NAfME All-Northwest Wind Ensemble and has won her division at WMEA Solo and Ensemble competition. She also performs with the UW Wind Ensemble and enjoys playing chamber music with the Saxophone Quartet.

Program Notes 

This program was curated specifically with the intention of connecting the pieces to each other through history and traditions. We can see many connections between Hungarian and French musical ideas on our program, as Franz Lizst was a prominent Hungarian composer, Berlioz wrote the Hungarian march, and Schmidt whose mother was Hungarian. We also see many French influences on our program as Desenclos, Saint-Saëns, and Berlioz were all French composers. In addition, Wagner and Schmidt share commonality in that they were integral figures to the Austro-German musical tradition. The three pieces that do not feature soloists are taken from larger works for the stage.

Born to a wealthy family in Southern France, Hector Berlioz became enthralled with music at an early age. He began composing at just 12 years old, often drawing inspiration from the natural beauty of the French landscape as well as various pieces of literature. In 1845 Berlioz wrote the, “La damnation de Faust” based on German writer Johann Goethe’s epic poem of the same name. This Hungarian march can be found as a movement of this work, but it was written after the its initial publication and added to performances as means of winning the favor of Hungarian audiences. The melody of this piece comes from one of the unofficial state anthems of Hungary which Berlioz then orchestrated. The original tune can be heard in the beginning bars of the piece, increasing in intensity as the piece comes to its conclusion. – Micah Weiland.

French composer and organist Camille Saint-Saëns was an active figure in the Parisian music scene recognized for his versatility and mastery of various musical styles. Completing a diverse body of work in various genres, including symphonies, chamber music, and operas, he became recognized for his notable works, including his Symphony No. 3, “Danse Macabre,” and “The Carnival of the Animals.” Artistically influenced by the works of composers such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, Saint-Saëns assisted in the development of French Romanticism. His students included the composer Gabriel Fauré, who went on to become a leading figure in French music, as well as many other notable musicians of the era. Saint-Saëns composed his Violin Concerto No. 3 in 1880, during a period of exceptional productivity and success. The third movement of this concerto follows the rondo form with a lively opening theme characterized by a driving rhythm, contrasted by a lyrical and mournful central episode. Throughout the movement, the solo violin engages in an animated dialogue with the orchestra, creating a sense of forward momentum that builds to a thrilling conclusion. Despite his success in 1880, Saint-Saëns faced personal challenges, including a troubled marriage and the death of his two children just two years prior. Some of his later works explored themes of isolation and loneliness, reflecting these struggles. Nevertheless, he continued to compose prolifically and remained a mentor to many young musicians. The third movement of Saint-Saëns' Violin Concerto No. 3 stands as a testament to his skill as a composer, its bittersweet brilliance making it a favorite among performers and audiences alike and solidifying its place as a cherished work in the violin repertoire.
– Dalma Ashby. 

For 26 years, Franz Liszt developed and revised what would eventually become his first piano concerto. Throughout his early career, the legendary virtuoso traveled across Europe, gaining exposure for his performances centered around self-written works designed to entertain the public and display his immense technical skill. Inspired by the novel compositional style of composers such as Paganini, Liszt was driven to develop his own virtuosic approach to writing music. In 1847, when Liszt decided to retire from performance and pursue composition exclusively, he sought to create “a Concerto after a design that I think is new, and for which the accompaniments remain for me to write”. Described by Bélw Bartók as being “the first perfect realisation of cyclic sonata form”, Liszt seamlessly integrates both piano and orchestra in a fashion that strayed away from the typical alternating form that was popular of many late 18th and early 19th-century concertos. Each of the Concerto’s four sections share thematic material which is transformed and beautifully echoed throughout the entirety of the piece with bits of excitement that characterized Liszt in his prime virtuoso era. Despite being initially finished in 1849, Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 would be revised radically in 1853 prior to its premiere in Weimar only a few years later. A representation of Liszt’s finest, his first piano concerto is sure to take the audience on an energy-filled journey while pushing both the piano and orchestra to their musical limits.
- Michael Gu. 

French composer Alfred Desenclos describes his music style as “Romantic,” borrowing many of his compositional techniques from Impressionist composers. Coming from a large family, he spent his early career working in the textile industry until he was eventually admitted to the Conservatory in Robieux in 1929, where he studied piano. He later studied at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1932, where he won many prizes for his compositions. He won the Prix de Rome in 1942 in composition, and several of his works are commonly performed to this day. Prelude, Cadence et Finale was originally written for Alto Saxophone and Piano in 1956 as a competition piece. It was dedicated to saxophonist Marcel Mule who taught at the Conservatoire de Paris. The Prelude is slow but driving and introduces the themes that are developed throughout the entire piece. Next, the Cadence is an extended saxophone cadenza that includes some of the themes as well as many technical passages. Lastly, the Finale continues developing themes from prior movements and brings the piece to a dramatic close. This piece was later arranged for solo saxophone and orchestra in 1997 by Russell Peterson. – Katie Zundel

Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Schmidt was principal cellist and member of the Vienna Hofoper orchestra and Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Gustav Mahler until leaving to teach at the Musik Hochschule. Throughout his compositions Schmidt continued the Hungarian traditions of his family, notably in this Intermezzo from his larger operatic work, “Notre Dame”. He utilizes aspects of the Hungarian musical identity and language in this piece, this can

be heard in the quasi improvisatory musical figurations. Schmidt’s works are also noted for their unique blend of the classical and romantic approaches to composition which can also be heard in this piece. – Micah Weiland.

Richard Wagner was especially known for hi operas, which he often based on literature and epic poetry. However, his opera “Die Meisetersinger von Nurnberg '' is based on a real group of German musical and artistic craftsman, known as “Master-singers”, this group included amateur musicians that had strict and complex rules for composition and performance. The prelude to one of Wagner’s only comic operas, this piece embodies the strong themes of tradition and artistry that are crucial to the story.
– Micah Weiland

Director Biographies

David Rahbee

David Alexander Rahbee is currently Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle, where he is Director of Orchestral Activities and Chair of Orchestral Conducting. He is Music Director and Conductor of the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra and founder of the UW Campus Philharmonia Orchestras. He is a recipient of the American-Austrian Foundation's 2003 Herbert von Karajan Fellowship for Young Conductors, the 2005 International Richard-Wagner-Verband Stipend, a fellowship the Acanthes Centre in Paris (2007), and is first prize winner in conducting from The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts for 2020. His work at UW has earned national recognition. In 2021 he was praised by The American Prize as “Consistently one of the most courageous and comprehensive [orchestral] programmers working in higher education in the U.S. today…”

Dr. Rahbee has appeared in concert with orchestras such as the Seattle Symphony, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Kammerphilharmonie Berlin-Brandenburg, Guernsey Symphony Orchestra, Chattanooga Symphony, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, Orchestre de la Francophonie, Orchesterakademie der Bochumer Symphoniker, the Dresden Hochschule orchestra, Grand Harmonie, the Boston New Music Initiative, Seattle Modern Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Loja (Ecuador), Savaria Symphony Orchestra (Hungary), Cool Opera of Norway (members of the Stavanger Symphony), Schönbrunner Schloss Orchester (Vienna), the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, the Kennett Symphony, and the Divertimento Ensemble of Milan. His collaborations with the Seattle Symphony include assistant conductor for the performance and recording of Ives’ Fourth Symphony, and as guest conductor for their Native Lands project and the North American premiere of Páll Ragnar Pallson's Quake with faculty cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir. He has collaborated with several prominent soloists such as Sarah Chang, Jon Kimura Parker, Yekwon Sunwoo, Glenn Dicterow and Jonathan Biss. He has been a guest rehearsal conductor for numerous young orchestras, such as the New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, The Symphony Orchestra of the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music at Chapman University, and the Vienna University of Technology orchestra. He has served on faculty of the Pierre Monteux School as Conducting Associate, has been resident conductor of the Atlantic Music Festival and guest conductor at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.

Dr. Rahbee was an assistant at the Vienna State opera from 2002-2010. As part of his fellowship and residency at the 2003 Salzburg Festival, Dr. Rahbee was assistant conductor of the International Attergau Institute Orchestra, where he worked with members of the Vienna Philharmonic. He has been selected to actively participate in masterclasses with prominent conductors such as Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis, Jorma Panula, Zdeněk Mácal, Peter Eötvös, Zoltán Peskó and Helmut Rilling, and counts Nikolaus Harnoncourt to be among his most influential mentors. From 1997-2001, David Rahbee was founder and conductor of the Fidelio Chamber Orchestra in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dr. Rahbeeʼs principal conducting teachers were Charles Bruck and Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux School. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin and composition from Indiana University, a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory in orchestral conducting, and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Montreal in orchestral conducting.  He has also participated in post-graduate conducting classes at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Vienna. His brass arrangements are published by Warwick Music, and his articles on the music of Mahler have appeared in journals of the International Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft, among others.

In addition to being awarded first prize in conducting from The American Prize for 2020, he was awarded 2nd place in 2019. He has also placed among winners for five consecutive years for The American Prize Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award for Orchestral Programming, recognizing his programming with the UW Symphony and its affiliated ensembles for every season since he joined the faculty. The UWSO has also been a finalist in the category of orchestral performance in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Rahbee is co-editor of Daniels’ Orchestral Music (6thedition) and Daniels’ Orchestral Music Online (DOMO), the gold standard among conductors, orchestral administrators, orchestra librarians as well as other music professionals and students researching for orchestral programming.

Graduate Student Daren Weissfisch

Daren Weissfisch has conducted professional and student ensembles in the United States, Mexico, and Europe for over a decade. He is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Washington under the tutelage of Dr. David Alexander Rahbee where he is the conductor of the Campus Philharmonia Orchestras, the assistant conductor of the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra, and conductor of the University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble and Opera Theater Works Orchestra. Daren was recently named House Conductor of the Tacoma Opera and he previously conducted the University of Washington’s opera production of Vinkensport by David T. Little and Joseph Haydn’s opera Philemon und BaucisDaren has also served as cover conductor for the Harmonia Orchestra Seattle and the Issaquah Philharmonic Orchestra. From 2013 to 2019 Daren was the Artistic Director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Esperanza Azteca Sinaloa, which is an El Sistema based youth orchestra and choir in Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico. While in Mexico he was the assistant director for the 2016 production of Charles Gounod’s opera Romeo and Juliet with the Orquesta Sinfónica Sinaloa de las Artes under Sinaloense conductor Enrique Patrón de Rueda and the same year he collaborated with French guitarist Jean Bruno Dautaner to record the guitar concerto Tres en Raya by Spanish composer Antonio Ruíz Pipó under the AdLib MusicMX record label. In 2017 Daren conducted the Sinaloa premier of Horizontes, a work by Mexican composer Samuel Zyman, again with the Orquesta Sinfónica Sinaloa de las Artes, and for the 2017 Sinaloa Cultural Festival Daren founded the ensemble Sinaloa Players which presented Stravinsky’s masterpiece Histoire du Soldat in collaboration with renowned Mexican choreographer Mauricio Nava. Daren was a conducting student of Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux Festival and School for several summers and he also studied with many notable conductors including Ludovic Morlot, Donald Schleicher, Kensho Watanabe, Lior Shambadal, Edward Cumming, Charles Olivieri-Munroe, Gábor Hollerung, Linus Lerner, Carlos Spierer, Sandro Gorli, Glen Adsit and Timothy Salzman among others.

Daren is also an oboist and was the second/assistant principal oboist of the Orquesta Sinfónica Sinaloa de las Artes in Sinaloa, Mexico from 2010-2019 as well as soloist playing oboe concertos by Mozart, Strauss and Bach. He is also a substitute player in the Seattle area with the Bainbridge Island Symphony Orchestra, Harmonia Orchestra Seattle and the Lake Union Civic Orchestra among others.

Graduate student Ryan Farris

Ryan D. Farris is an up-and-coming conductor and performer in the Pacific Northwest community. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Washington where he is the conductor of the Campus Philharmonia Orchestras and assistant conductor of the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra. Ryan has served as cover conductor for professional orchestras across the country, including the Auburn Symphony in Washington and the Boulder Philharmonic in Colorado. He has also served as an assistant conductor for the Greater Boulder Youth Orchestras and as a sectional conductor for Harmonia Seattle. Ryan was a proud student of the late maestro Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux School and Music Festival in Maine for five summers. He has also studied with many notable conductors including Ludovic Morlot, David Rahbee, Gary Lewis, Nicholas Carthy, Donald Schleicher, Kensho Watanabe, Kirk Trevor, and Tiffany Lu.

Ryan has served as principal cellist with the Boulder Opera Company, Seattle Philharmonic Strings, and the University of Washington Symphony. He has appeared as a featured soloist with the South Pudget Sound College Orchestra, and regularly performs in chamber music groups across the region. Before moving to Seattle, he performed regularly with some of Colorado’s best orchestras, including the Boulder Philharmonic, Fort Collins Symphony, and Colorado MahlerFest. Ryan also performs on viola da gamba with the UW Baroque Ensemble and traditional Irish fiddle and pennywhistle with the acclaimed Seattle-based Celtic group Cavort.