Lukas Goodman and Xu Peng, undergraduates at Rice's Shepherd School of Music, respectively won the school's string and piano concerto competitions last year. Each of them will perform with the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra later this season, but we are lucky enough to hear them play together on this Saturday's season opener. The two of them agreed to answer a few questions about their competition experiences and musical backgrounds for us.
How did your interest in music begin?
Lukas: "I have always had a strong love for music. I figured it began when I started playing movie music and songs I heard on the radio, but my parents recently showed me a video of a two-year-old me singing Happy Birthday to myself while I ate cake, so it must have started even earlier."
Xu: "I was born in a family where there was quite a lot of music around. Neither of my parents played instruments, except papa, who used to sing. But both of them are certainly music lovers and are constantly listening to it. So music was always there in my childhood."
When did you know you wanted to pursue music as more than a hobby?
Xu: "There has been always this willingness to explore further, of course. One of the decisive factors was probably when I had the chance to play for one of the professors at the Central Conservatory of Music in Pekin during my visit to the city. I was nine. The way Prof. Zhang played totally blew my mind and I decided to start taking lessons from him. A few months later I prepared and entered the conservatory and so the journey began officially."
Did you have a mentor who significantly shaped your musical life?
Lukas: "I studied with the same teacher from when I started cello at the age of ten until I graduated high school. She always pushed me to focus on the music, not technique, and really let me progress at my own pace. Most importantly, I think, she cultivated my love for music."
What was it like to participate in and win the Shepherd School’s concerto competition last year?
Xu: "It was certainly an honor. The competition has always been at a very high level, almost everyone prepares very seriously for months and plays. I have to mention that for the past six years it has always been the same concerto, the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1, winning over and over in the piano division. And it has always been a pianist from the [Jon Kimura] Parker studio. I was really happy to have kept it up [as a Parker student] and hoped that having the Khachaturian [Piano Concerto] this year would bring a refreshing touch to the repertoire."
Lukas: "Winning the Shepherd School concerto competition was a huge deal for me. It had been a goal of mine since coming in as a freshman, and the opportunity to play a concerto with the Shepherd Symphony is a dream come true. I cannot wait to finish up my time at Rice by playing the Dvorak [Cello Concerto] with the orchestra."
Is there anything you’d like to tell our audience about this weekend’s program?
Lukas: "This program consists of three classics from the cello repertoire, but I chose these pieces because each has an equally important, soloistic piano part. To have the opportunity to play with a pianist like Xu is a real treat, as he brings so much personality and command to the music."
Xu: "It is a wonderful program. Each piece is unique in its own way. The Rachmaninoff [Cello Sonata] presents a particular challenge for me as it has a very difficult piano part. However the music is of an extreme beauty and the slow movement is probably one of the most sensuous movements ever written for cello. In the end, the whole experience is very rewarding, especially when it comes to playing with such a great cellist as Lukas."
Lukas and Xu will be performing Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, Beethoven's fourth cello sonata, and Rachmaninoff's cello sonata this Saturday, 9/21, 7pm at the Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church. Tickets can be purchased under the Tickets tab of this website or at the door.