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ESYO Names Two Winners of Concerto Competition in Historic Judging

The winners will perform during the ensemble’s concerts in April and October, respectively

For the first time in its history, Empire State Youth Orchestra (ESYO) has named two winners plus a runner-up in its annual Lois Lyman Concerto Competition. 

The winners are Yu-Heng Wang, who performed the Bartok Viola Concerto, and William Lauricella, who performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2. The runner-up was Liam Sullivan, who performed Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No. 1. Yu-Heng and William now have the honor of performing their concertos with the full ESYO Symphony Orchestra during the ensemble’s concerts in April and October, respectively.

The Lois Lyman Concerto Competition has been an ESYO tradition for decades, and encourages ESYO Symphony Orchestra members to perform a concerto of their choice. Each participant performs a ten-minute slice of their piece from memory in front of a panel of judges. 

Up first is Yu-Heng Wang, ESYO Symphony Orchestra’s principal violist and a senior at Shenendehowa High School. “I am still very shocked that I could be the first violist to win the Lois Lyman Concerto Competition,” said Yu-Heng. “It is not a very popular instrument, and takes incredible command and skill to wield, with such a small repertoire, making the learning process of the instrument quite arduous, especially at the beginning.”

Yu-Heng has been playing viola since he was in fourth grade and has been an ESYO member since seventh grade. “Ever since eighth grade, I told myself that I would win the Lois Lyman Concerto Competition. I was determined to one day play in front of an orchestra. And in ninth grade, I came across one the greatest pieces for viola and orchestra ever written, the York Bowen Viola Concerto in C minor. It was simply a gorgeous piece, and the only romantic viola concerto to have been written. 

“I dedicated myself to the preparation of this concerto for the next year and a half. I virtually played nothing else and focused solely on it. However, when I played it for the concerto competition last year, I did not win. It was one of the great disappointments of my life; that something I practiced incredibly hard for did not end up getting me anything. 

“I considered not doing the Concerto Competition this year. After the devastation of not having won last year despite such arduous and immense preparation for such a fantastic piece, I was ready to be done with such an emotional roller-coaster. However, the prospect of playing in front of the orchestra was too great to abandon. So I thought I’d give it a shot once again.

“What was most difficult for me was the fact that I had to balance my auditions for various music schools, as well as auditions for various summer programs along with the concerto competition. As deadlines inched closer, I became more and more stressed about whether or not I was going to have it ready by the date of the competition. But thanks to my less busy schedule at school combined with help from my teacher, I was able to greatly increase my efficiency in learning and preparing the concerto. Luckily, I had already been playing the first movement of the concerto for around a year, which helped a lot, as it is the most difficult portion of the piece. I learned that once you’ve gotten the notes of a piece down in the memory, all you have to do is relax and let the bow and fingers do the work, and everything will turn out fine.”

Yu-Heng will perform the Bartok Viola Concerto in full on April 2, 2023 at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall along with the rest of the ESYO Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra will also perform Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Li Huanzhi’s Spring Festival Orchestra, as well as a movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, which will serve as a preview of the orchestra’s season-closing concert at Carnegie Hall on June 4.