CLASSICAL MUSIC : Young Cellist Takes His Musical Talent in Stride

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It’s a rare teen-ager who fattens his frequent-flyer mileage because of music studies.

Felix Fan is the exception. The 15-year-old La Jolla cellist makes a monthly trip to Indiana University to study under master teacher and noted performer Janos Starker. Fan is the youngest student to work under the Hungarian-born cellist.

“Last October, I played for Starker when he gave a master class at Stanford,” Fan explained, “and he invited me to become his student. Each month, my mother and I fly to Bloomington for a week so I can get in four or five lessons a trip.”

Fan, who is performing a duo recital with pianist Gustavo Romero at 8 p.m. Friday in Sherwood Auditorium, is used to commuting for music lessons. At age 9, he began his weekly trek to Los Angeles to study with Eleonore Schoenfeld, the dean of West Coast cello teachers and a member of the University of Southern California music faculty. Fan’s progress was rapid. He played his first full-length concert at age 10. He won a competition in Los Angeles at age 12--he could not recall which competition it was--that convinced him that he was a breed apart from his fellow cello students.


“It was after that competition that I first thought I might have a shot at being a performer,” he said.

Despite the demands of practicing, Fan’s world is not limited to music. At La Jolla High School, he plays both baseball and basketball. He does not worry about breaking or spraining a finger during sports.

“My parents asked (pianist Emmanuel) Ax that question, and he told them that a musician can’t go around worrying about what might happen to his fingers. If it happens, it happens. So far, nothing has happened to me.”

Last year, Fan won the grand prize in the American String Teachers Assn. national solo competition held in Washington, D.C. He remains relatively certain that music will be his chosen profession.

“I think I will continue in music. It’s the best thing I have.”

Fan and Romero’s Sherwood Auditorium program, which is sponsored by the San Diego Mini-Concert Committee, will feature three sonatas for cello and piano: Beethoven’s C Major Sonata, Op. 102; Brahms’ E Minor Sonata, Op. 38, and Debussy’s Sonata.

Fan’s travels also include an interesting footnote. Because cellists cannot trust their large, fragile instruments to the airlines’ baggage handlers, they usually have to buy an extra ticket for their cello. Fan noted that his has its own frequent-flyer card. The instrument flies under the name Cello Fan.


Cultural exchange. Mexican violinist Martin Valdeschack will make his West Coast debut in a solo recital at Sherwood Auditorium at 8 p.m. Thursday. The 26-year-old musician from Mexico City will play works by Mozart, Brahms and Cesar Franck. Valdeschack has performed with the National Symphony of Mexico, the Mexico City Philharmonic and the Houston Symphony. His appearance here is jointly sponsored by the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art and the Mexican Consulate General, San Diego, as part of the Dos Ciudades/Two Cities program.

L.A. discovers La Jolla. Chamber Music in Historic Places will present four different programs this weekend in North County, starting with the vocal ensemble I Cantori at the Church of the Nativity in Fairbanks Ranch, at 11 a.m. today. Chamber Music in Historic Places is sponsored by the Da Camera Society of Mount St. Mary’s College, Los Angeles, in association with the Southern California Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. This is their first performance in San Diego.

After the Church of the Nativity, which was designed by architect Charles Moore, the pilgrimage will continue southward to La Jolla’s Copley Library of American History, where several members of the Da Camera Players will perform Stephen Foster and Charles Ives at 3 p.m. The instrumentalists will move up the street to Irving Gill’s historic La Jolla Women’s Club, where they will perform Beethoven’s “Archduke” Trio as well as works by Mozart and Bohuslav Martinu at 7 p.m.

Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and noon, guitarist Jack Sanders will play Spanish classical guitar music in the Casa del Zorro, Borrego Springs.

La Jolla chamber series. The 1991-92 program of the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s Sherwood Auditorium was announced last week. On the typically well-balanced eight-concert series, the most arresting offering is soprano Dawn Upshaw’s solo recital Feb. 1. Although the opera career of the young American singer is just beginning to take off, she made her name as a recitalist. Her Nonesuch recording of Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville Summer of 1915” with the Orchestra of St. Lukes was a runaway best-seller then garnered a 1990 Grammy Award.

The rest of the Sherwood series:

Flutist Paula Robison and Eliot Fisk on Oct. 4.

The New York-based Emerson String Quartet on Oct. 19.

Cellist Gary Hoffman and pianist David Golub in a duo recital on Nov. 30.

Violinist Gil Shaham on Jan. 18.

Pianist Minoru Nojima on Feb. 29.

The Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio on March 28.

The Munich Chamber Orchestra under music director Hans Stadlmair on April 3.