Rachel Lee Hall won the 2019 Houston Symphony Ima Hogg Concerto Competition after performing Ginastera’s harp concerto with the symphony on June 1. Hall won $25,000 and a repeat performance with the Houston Symphony at Jones Hall on July 10. The finals included fellow harpist Chloe Tula, who also performed the Ginastera and won third prize. Cellists Coleman Itzkoff and Katherine Audas won second and fourth prize, respectively.
“I feel so incredibly grateful to have had such a wonderful experience in Houston last week,” says Hall. “The generosity and hospitality of the Houston Symphony and all its staff, volunteers, host families, and supporters absolutely blew me away. It was the kindest welcome I have ever received at a competition, and it helped me feel at ease and at home in a city I had never visited before.”
The last harpist to win the competition was Megan Conley in 2012, who won Houston Symphony’s principal harp audition in 2014. Another notable harpist winner is Yolanda Kondonassis, Hall’s former teacher. “The competition is extra special for me because when my teacher, Yolanda Kondonassis, was about my age, she was a contestant at the Ima Hogg Competition and won with the very same piece I performed on Saturday. It is incredibly humbling to have followed her footsteps to Houston because I consider her my greatest musical role model and mentor. She has been such an inspiration and support to me all the way, and I’m so grateful.”
In the semi–finals, the nine competitors were asked to present two concerti. Both Hall and Tula played Glière’s concerto in addition to the Ginastera. When asked about the experience of competing against another harpist playing identical repertoire, Hall said, “It was definitely more intimidating for me to find out that Chloe was competing with me and playing the same pieces as me, but I think that gave me even more motivation in the practice room while I was preparing. I was excited that the competition gave me a chance to study and perform the Glière concerto, a gorgeous piece I had always wanted to learn! I felt like learning that piece was a prize in itself. The Ginastera, however, is an old friend, and I was over the moon that I had another chance to perform it.”