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.