March 13, 2014
Bach to the Future
By Mark MacNamara
SF Classical Voice
The Junior Bach Festival that everyone always remembers is when the lights went out a few years ago during a solo concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Kensington. It was, shall we say, a ‘dark and stormy night’, filled with thunder and lightning, and the virtuosity of violinist Yujin Ariza, who was then 14.
Just then he was in the middle of a hot streak, in which he won several prominent competitions that lead right to Julliard’s door. Which is where he is now, among other places. He was last seen in the Bay Area in June during a concert with the El Camino Youth Symphony.
But it was that Saturday night in Kensington that said it all — about Ariza, but also about the festival itself and the intensity that underlies it. Ariza was playing Bach’s Partita in D Minor for solo violin, known for its virtuosic Chaconne movement, about which Brahms noted, “If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”
So here is Ariza playing a very difficult piece, and perhaps in the moment just a little out of his own mind, when suddenly a flash of lightening and a world-ending crash of thunder explodes. The lights flicker and then complete darkness but Ariza, just at the halfway mark in the piece, doesn’t miss a note and plows on for seven more minutes — unexpectedly exquisite minutes as anyone will tell you who was there.