Festival Connect Bridges Worlds

Thursday, May 25, 2023
Juilliard Journal
Share on:
Three instrumentalists, dressed in performance black, are standing on stage in a semi-circle performing
Gergely Ittzés, Diego Acosta, and Puleum Kim performing in Tianjin’s Festival Connect

The Tianjin Juilliard School’s Festival Connect traces the influence of groundbreaking 20th-century composers on contemporary music. This year’s festival, the school’s second, took place in March and spotlighted Igor Stravinsky, Guo Wenjing (b. 1956, Chongqing, China) and Joan Tower (b. 1938, New Rochelle, New York). First-year master’s flutist Diego Acosta wrote about it.

By Diego Acosta

Taking part in Festival Connect was an incredible experience. After an intense week of rehearsals and performances, we celebrated the legacy of one of the most remarkable composers of the 20th century, Igor Stravinsky, and began a wonderful journey looking at his influence on contemporary composers Joan Tower and Guo Wenjing.

I was honored to perform an arrangement for three modern flutes of Guo Wenjing’s Bamboo Branch Song with my colleague Puleum Kim and my flute professor, Gergely Ittzés, at one of the festival chamber music recitals. There were some technical challenges to playing a piece originally for bamboo flute on modern instruments—among them achieving a timbre similar to the bamboo flute’s and playing long-interval glissandi on an instrument with a complex system of keys. But we collaborated and shared our ideas during rehearsals, and we couldn’t have received better guidance from our teacher, whose arrangement perfectly adapted the technical capacities of the modern flute.

One of the benefits of Festival Connect is that we can perform music by living composers and collaborate with them. It was such an honor to have Guo Wenjing on campus listening to our rehearsals and telling us about the sources of his imagination and inspiration. As a Latin American student at Tianjin Juilliard, I found it amazing to experience the cultural richness from Chinese and Western musical languages, and it complemented my understanding of music and contributed to my formation as a musician.

After an exciting week of music making, the Tianjin Juilliard Orchestra concluded the festival with Tower’s Made in America, Wenjing’s Zhudi Concerto No. 2, “Ye Huo,” and Stravinsky’s Firebird suite (1919 version). I was especially impressed by our soloist, Tang Junqiao. Earlier in the week, she led a forum for the flute studio where we learned more about the bamboo flute and its history, and we compared the differences and similarities between the zhudi and the Western flute—an incredible experience for a flute player! And what better way to finish the final concert than with the Firebird?The piccolo part was both contrasting and complementary to my flute part in the zhudi concerto—in both cases, the flute/piccolo simulates fire, a source of energy, as well as being an inspiration for the composers. I can’t wait for next year’s Festival Connect!

Diego Acosta, who’s from Xalapa, Mexico, is a first-year master’s flutist in Tianjin Juilliard’s instrumental and orchestral studies program