- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 27, 2002

Seventeen-year-old identical twins Katya and Liza Solovei, accompanied by their scratched-up-from-playing mandolins, have traveled thousands of miles from Yekaterinburg, Russia, to show off their musical talent this weekend in the third biennial "Viva Vivaldi" all-girl music competition and performance.
"I think the other kids are going to be blown away by these guys," says Washington Chamber Symphony Music Director Stephen Simon, who founded the Vivaldi event with his wife, Bonnie, and will conduct the proceedings. "These girls will probably inspire the others to give up the violin forever for the mandolin."
The twins are among 36 girls, ages 10 to 18, who will perform and compete by playing pieces by Antonio Vivaldi at several different venues this weekend. The competition culminates with a public concert at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
Most of the participants in the program are Americans, except for the twins and an 18-year-old bassoonist from Montreal. Five are from the Washington area: flutist Christine Edewaard, 14, of Oakton; oboist Allison Cayne, 17, of Bethesda; harpsichordist Priya Punnoose, 16, of Herndon; and sisters Jordan Delphos, 17, and Whitney Delphos, 15, both from McLean. Jordan performs on the violin and Whitney the cello.
Most of the girls in the Vivaldi event play the violin, but other instruments such as the piccolo, harpsichord, oboe and bassoon also will be featured.
The all-girl event is a re-creation of an all-girl orchestra that the Italian composer and conductor led in the early 1700s in Venice, Italy. Vivaldi composed a large number of concertos for the orchestra at Ospedale della Pieta, an all-girls' school and orphanage.
Mr. Simon says bringing the Russian girls to this year's event is just the start of an effort to make "Viva Vivaldi" an international happening.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the only event of its kind in the world," Mr. Simon says. "I would like to make it international and take it to Italy maybe to Venice."
Organizers received more than 500 applications from all 50 states, Canada, Japan, Puerto Rico and Russia. Of the 36 girls selected, about 10 will perform as soloists at the Kennedy Center concert. Among them are the Russian twins, who will perform Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Mandolins in G major, Opus 21 No. 11.
Aside from the twins' piece, and two other pieces "Summer," from "The Four Seasons" and Concerto Grosso in G minor Mr. Simon has still to decide what will be included in tomorrow's program. It depends what soloists qualify in the days leading up to the concert.
The twins who rock back and forth with blank faces as if in a trance while playing their instruments in a way that probably would have made Vivaldi proud don't expect to experience stage fright. They are regular soloists with chamber orchestras in their hometown in central Russia and are accustomed to performing in front of large audiences.
The girls started playing the piano and the domra, a Russian string instrument, at age 9 and the mandolin, which is played and plucked with a pick, at age 11. They practice together several hours a day and sometimes they fight, they acknowledge.
Aside from enjoying themselves during the competition and concert, Liza and Katya, who both want to become full-time musicians, plan to go sightseeing in Washington and see, among other things, the "Beliy Dom" (the White House), they say via an interpreter.
Although the Russian girls may be the highlight of the show, all competitors are "brilliant" and "phenomenal," Mr. Simon says.
"All of these kids have so much experience. They are stars in their own towns," he says.
Although the event has a competitive component, Mr. Simon says the most important thing is that all the girls come away with an increased love of music.
"The main purpose of the event is to have fun," he says. "[My wish is that] they love music for the rest of their lives."

WHAT: "Viva Vivaldi"
WHERE: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW
WHEN: 2 p.m. tomorrow
TICKETS: $12 to $37.50
PHONE: 202/467-4600

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