Beautiful Music

Imagine a Rittenhouse Square mansion stuffed with the world’s top musical prodigies. Now imagine you’re one of them, trying to survive round-the-clock rehearsals, barking instructors and the relentless pursuit of perfection. For Becky Anderson and her fellow students, the race to be the best of the best defines life inside the Curtis Institute of Music

But the bright stars keep emerging. In recent years, violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Lang Lang gave their graduation recitals in this hall. “They were very well attended, standing room only, I think,” says admissions director Chris Hodges. “It was mostly people who knew it would be the last chance to hear these artists for free for quite some time.”

Becky Anderson keeps herself from thinking of the history that surrounds her as the crowd stills, waiting to hear her. “All that matters for me when I walk out there is the music,” she’ll tell me later. She stands with a far-off gaze as her piano accompanist begins the piece alone. For the initial few minutes of Poème, the piano and violin trade solo passages; Becky is a bit tentative on her first entrance. (“The opening part is possibly one of the scariest things I’ve ever played,” she says.)

But on her second entrance, she digs her bow into the strings, begins to shift her weight from foot to foot like a boxer. The violin climbs through a series of trills to a high lyrical passage, and the music opens like a blooming flower. Becky Anderson has managed to take Poème in a heavenly direction, and for the rest of the piece her playing is impassioned and strong, and she is rewarded at the end with loud applause and a curtain call.

Becky Anderson has a few years and a bunch of performances left here, at the Mansion of the Prodigies. And it’s a good bet that they may be the last chance to hear her play for free.


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  • Monique

    Great article! To be savoured from beginning to end both for form and content, and the genuine, passionate conviction that it conveys.

  • Gary

    Nice throwaway line on George Bush. Since we all know he was born with a silver spoon. But what about Kennedy legacies? Biden legacies? Did they get into good schools on pure merit? Is that why they needed to cheat and plagiarize? Does that explain the failed bar exams? Maybe the author could stick to the point of his story next time rather than taking cheap shots to ingratiate himself to his presumed we-all-think-the-same-way audience?

  • Dave

    Gary! Amen amen amen! I thought the exact same thing, thanks for saying it better than I could have.

  • Robert

    Why does the writer feel obliged to take a cheap shot at George Bush? God knows he failed us less than the current prez. Other such legacies-Kennedy, Rockefeller, Biden, Bayh, Byrd, Clinton–have done poorly too.

  • Bem

    Does it make the writer feel good to take a shot a W like that OR, is that what’s required to get onto his circle’s party invite list? Whatever the purpose, it ruined the purpose of the article. Nice try though.

  • Roger

    If that’s so good for Curtis, why wouldn’t it be good for other schools, professions, military service, etc, which “want the best”?

  • Juan

    Moronic comments like this about GW are written into the DNA of today’s media. If we want to talk about the intellectual challenges of our Commanders-in-Chief, let’s start with the current one (Mr.Cinco de Cuatro, 57 states, etc.)

  • Gerard

    One reads such cheap shots against a former president in an article concerning a music school in Philadelphis and what can one say but… “Marchese.”

  • Anonymous

    I’m amazed by the stupidity of the comments. Who cares if your boy blunder George ‘W’ was mentioned, oh boy, cry me a river! You just ignored the 10 page article. Grow up boys!