The last time Symphony Parnassus performed with violinist Alex Zhou, he was a fresh-faced 14-year-old just getting used to playing with an orchestra.
Three years later, while he’s still young at 17, he is a much more seasoned performer, self-assured in his art and finding deeper expression when he plays.
“I am more aware of all the different subtleties of the music than I was three years ago,” he said. “That’s still something I am working on—listening closely to music and the orchestra, and not being afraid to express how I want to express the music instead of just playing notes. I feel that’s where I’ve matured over past the past three or four years.”
Alex is the featured soloist for the Korngold Violin Concerto with Maestro Stephen Paulson and Symphony Parnassus for its spring concert on Sunday, April 7, 3 p.m. at Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave., 4th floor. Also on the program: Chabrier’s Joyeuse Marche, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Tickets ($25 for adults; $20 for seniors and $10 for all students): https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4067535?date=2028986
They are also available at the door.
Alex is a two-time winner (2015 and 2018) of the Parnassus – San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concerto Competition. The first time, he performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; this time, he’s playing a piece that is a far cry from the early romantic lyricism of that piece. He looks forward to introducing audiences to the lesser-known violin concerto from the 20th century film composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
“I’ve fallen in love with it,” Alex said. “It’s very unlike other staples of the concerto repertoire, more film-like. It’s a mix between classical tonality and 20th century, not quite modernist. It’s a lot of fun to play.”
Over the years, Alex has won many prizes. In addition to winning the 2018 Parnassus – SFCM Music Concerto Competition, his recent honors include:
honorable mention at the U.S. National YoungArts Competition
semifinalist at the 2018 International Shanghai Isaac Stern Violin Competition
quarterfinalist at the 2018 International Schoenfeld String Competition
1st place, 2018 International Irving M. Klein String Competition
1st place, 2016 Master Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra Competition
Fourth prize and Composer’s Prize, 2014 International Menuhin Violin Competition
Alex lives with his parents James Zhou and June Hu in San Jose and attends The King’s Academy school in Sunnyvale.
He started piano lessons at age 5 and began playing the violin a year later after seeing a home video of his older sister performing in her elementary school orchestra. Intrigued, he found her old violin and tried to play it, and soon began taking violin lessons, too.
Now almost through with high school and set to graduate, he spent the earlier part of this year playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto at college auditions and is still waiting to hear which conservatory he might attend.
Alex says it is “very exciting” to be performing with Symphony Parnassus again. “It feels very different. I feel like I’ve matured a lot musically and grown as a musician and performer.”