Meeka Quan is one of the Utah Symphony's newest members, having joined the orchestra as its associate principal cellist in September 2003. In the 13 months she's been here, Quan has performed twice outside of the orchestra, both times with the NOVA Chamber Music Series.
Audiences will get a different perspective on her artistry when Quan takes the solo spotlight Thursday in the season's first concert by the Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra. "I'm very much looking forward to it," Quan said. "I have some wonderful colleagues, and I love the chamber orchestra literature."
Quan will play Haydn's effervescent Cello Concerto in C major. "I've played the C major before but never with orchestra. It's one of the first concertos I learned when I was 14."
Haydn wrote two concertos for cello. The early C major, written in 1765, is much more musically rewarding for both the audience and the performer, Quan said. "It has a lot of melodic material. It's a crowd pleaser, and I think audiences are more turned on by it than the other concerto."
She feels that Haydn's other solo work for cello — written about 20 years after the C major Concerto — isn't as satisfying. "I've played the D major Concerto. It's much more difficult technically, and you get less reward for the effort."
The C major Concerto has a curious history. The manuscript disappeared not too long after the work had been written. No one doubted that there was a concerto for cello in C major, because Haydn had been meticulous in making a list of his works, down to copying the themes of each movement. But the work didn't resurface until 1961, when a young Czech musicologist discovered a set of parts in the Czech National Library in Prague and realized it was the long-missing C major Concerto. Since then, it's become one of Haydn's most performed and recorded concertos.
Quan, who is originally from San Francisco, began playing the cello when she was 6. "I was in the Montessori program. In first grade, we had a cellist who came and sang songs from Suzuki. By the time I was 5, I knew all the pieces in Suzuki's Book One."
At first, she had group lessons, then individual instruction. When she was 13, she realized that she wanted to make music her career. "By that time, I was really looking forward to all the music activities in the Suzuki program," Quan said. "My teacher said I needed to practice three hours a day, instead of the 45 minutes I was practicing, in order to become a professional musician.
"I did that every day, and I saw a huge jump in my playing."
Quan made her concerto debut at 16, performing the Dvorak concerto with the Pacific Symphony under the baton of music director Carl St. Clair. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Cleveland to take part in the Cleveland Institute of Music's young artists program.
She was just finishing a combined bachelor's/master's program at Cleveland when she auditioned for the position of associate principal cellist with the Utah Symphony. When she found out that she had won the audition, everyone told her to accept it. "My teachers and parents encouraged me to take it, and I felt it was too good of an opportunity to pass up."
Also on Thursday's program will be Mozart's Symphony No. 30 in D major, K. 202, and Richard Strauss' "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme." Music director Keith Lockhart will conduct.
If you go. . .
What: Cellist Meeka Quan, Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra,
conductor Keith Lockhart
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $18-$28
Phone: 355-2787 or 1-888-451-2787
Also. . .
Where: Peery's Egyptian Theater, Ogden
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $12-$20