Bennington College student leads Sage City in Brahms concerto

BENNINGTON — Sage City Symphony in its concert on Sunday featured a collaboration with the Bennington County Choral Society and a piano concerto performed by an award-winning Bennington College student who overcame his visual impairment and became a virtuosic piano player learning to play by ear.

Tony Lu, born in Wuhan, China in 1997, began playing the piano at the age of five. He moved to the U.S. in 2013 and began attending the Webster University Chamber Music Preparatory program in St. Louis. In 2015, he became in student at Bennington College after winning the Alton Symphony Orchestra's concerto competition and receiving second prize in the Chicago Young Artist Chamber Music Competition. His academic concentrations are mathematics, history, and piano performance.

Lu performed in the second piece in the concert, which featured three works by German composer Johannes Brahms. The first piece was Nanie, Op. 82, performed by the orchestra and the chorus together. The combined group was led by Cailin Marcel Manson, conductor of the choral society. The song was dedicated to the memory of David Bort, a longtime member of the orchestra and its former librarian, who died in August. The orchestra also mourned the loss of another member of its community, luthier Geoffrey Ovington, who died over the summer.

Lu and the orchestra then performed the third movement of Brahm's Concerto in D Minor, Op. 15, led by Sage City Music Director Michael Finckel. After a brief intermission, Finckel and the orchestra returned to play Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73.

"He's quite extraordinary," Finckel said of Lu in an interview with the Banner last week. "He knows the work inside and out."

Before the concert and during the intermission a silent auction was held with all proceeds to benefit the orchestra.

Sage City will feature additional concerts this season, its 45th anniversary, including a winter concert on Feb. 11, featuring tuba player Andrew Larson playing Ralph Vaughan Williams' tuba concerto; a youth concert on March 11, showcasing the works of Bennington College student composers; a spring concert on May 20, featuring concert master and Bennington College teacher Kaori Washiyama as violin soloist for Scheherazade by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and in keeping with the orchestra's tradition dating back to it founding, a commissioned piece, the Appalachian Trail Symphony by Keane Southard. The concerts are all free to attend and will take place at the Greenwall Auditorium at 4 p.m.

Sage City is sponsored by the Village of North Bennington, The Fund for North Bennington, and donations from individuals and businesses throughout the community.

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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