AmiCaFest Grand Finale

Sunday, June 24 | 8:30 PM
AmiCaFest Grand Finale
Free entrance
Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini, Catania

Bellini Symphony Orchestra
Johann-Sebastian Guzman, conductor
Concerto Competition Finalists, piano
Clara Nguyen, piano (guest artist)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466
I. Allegro
II. Romance
III. Allegro assai
Clara Nguyen, piano (guest artist)

Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
I. Maestoso
Belinda Chen, piano


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503
I. Allegro maestoso
Ga Eun Lee, piano

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25
I. Molto allegro con fuoco
II. Andante
III. Presto – Molto allegro vivace
Xue Maxine Gong, piano



Clara Nguyen was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started piano at age five and has performed in the United States and at Lake Como, Italy. She played at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in August, 2009 and at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in December, 2011. She made her orchestral debut with the Symphony of the Americas in September, 2013. She currently studies with Santiago Rodriguez, the 1981 Van Cliburn Silver Medalist and has played in masterclasses for Nelita True, Philippe Entremont, Nelson Delle-Vigne Fabbri, Andre Laplante, Evelyne Brancart, John O’Conor, William Nabore, Stanislav Ioudenitch, Dang Thai Son, Abbey Simon, Kevin Kenner and Dmitri Bashkirov. Clara is fluent in seven languages: Vietnamese, English, Russian, Spanish, Italian, French, and German.


Born in Athens, Georgia, Belinda Chen has performed at venues such as Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage in Washington D.C., the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center in Savannah, GA, and the Osaka International House in Osaka, Japan. Belinda is the first prize winner of the Eastside Music Teacher’s Scholarship Competition (2008), the Performing Arts Festival of the Eastside (2010), and the East shore League Solo and Ensemble Competition (2010). She was named the third prize winner at the 11th annual 1000 Islands International Chopin Competition for Young People (2013), located in Cape Vincent, NY and was a finalist in the 2016 Washington International Piano Festival Competition and in the 17th Osaka International Music Competition. Most recently, she was the winner of the 2017 Frost Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and performed as a soloist with the Frost Symphony Orchestra. Belinda completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University under the guidance of Alexander Shtarkman. At Peabody, she was the recipient of the Leslie C. Oursler Piano Music Scholarship, the Norman J. and Sarah J. Groves Endowed Scholarship, and the Leo B. Swinderman annual memorial Prize in piano. Currently, she is pursuing a DMA at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music under the guidance of Tian Ying.


Before moving to Germany in 2014, Korean pianist Ga Eun Lee studied with Ji-Hyun Cho and Ide Yumiko and worked as an instrumental accompanist in Seoul. After that she studied Master with Clemens Rave at the Musikhochschule Münster. Currently she studies Konzertexamen with him. A special interest of hers is the music of Russian composers, especially from the first half of the 20th century. Last year, as part of her Master thesis, she recorded a CD with music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Nikolai Medtner. She won prizes at the Johannes Brahms Competition in South Korea and the Steinway Competition Münster, Germany. Amongst others she played at the Amalfi Piano Festival in Italy, in Paris, at the Conservatoire de Versailles, Conservatoire Claude Debussy and at the Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte in Dortmund. Her continued commitment to contemporary music has led her to repeatedly appear at the Festivals for contemporary music “Klangzeit*Werkstatt”, “Musik unserer Zeit” and at the museum für Lackkunst in Münster. She played numerous first performances (piano solo, chamber music and piano concerto) as well as many pieces by established composers and in some cases has even met and worked with them, as was the case with Erkki-Sven Tüür.


Xue Maxine Gong recently graduated from the New England Conservatory where she earned her Master’s degree in Piano Performance under Bruce Brubaker. Maxine earned her Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance at the Eastman School of Music under Enrico Elisi. Beginning from August 2018, she will continue her piano studies with Antoinette Perry at USC’s Thornton School of Music. Maxine was born in Shanghai, China. At seven, she gave her first piano solo recital in Nanjing and started her studies in Shenzhen Arts School under Sheng Jin, Zhaoyi Dan, and Eleanor Wong. In 2009, she went to the Idyllwild Arts Academy, one of only three boarding high schools for the performing arts in the States. Maxine won several competitions, including the 12th Hong Kong Asia Piano Open Competition Certificate Fifth Class Award, the 69th Steinway & Sons International Youth Piano Award, and the 3rd TOYAMA Youth Musical Competition Excellent Achievement Prize. In 2010, she won the Idyllwild Arts Academy Concerto Competition, playing the Liszt Piano Concerto No.1 in E-flat Major. In 2011, she was the Steinway Society of Riverside County Award senior division winner, and was named semi-finalist in the Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards Competition. Maxine presented solo recitals in Shanghai, Nanjing, Shenzhen, Los Angeles, Idyllwild, Palm Spring, and Palm Desert; she also performed the Liszt Concerto with the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra. In 2016, she won The American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition, and made her Carnegie debut. Maxine participated in several masterclasses with Boris Slutsky, Douglas Humpherys, John Perry, Tamas Ungar, Yoshikazu Nagai and Ilja Scheps.


Johann-Sebastian Guzman is looking forward to returning to AmiCaFest for his second consecutive year. As a young conductor, he has had the great privilege and honor of working with and shadowing conductors all over world including Maestro Ramon Tebar, Maestro Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and Maestro Daniel Harding. His passion and talents have taken him to encounter these great Maestros with some of the world’s greatest orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Cincinnati Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Sinfónica de Galicia, Palm Beach Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana; at theaters such as the Vienna State Opera and Teatro alla Scala; and with artists such as Hilary Hahn, Javier Perianes, Plácido Domingo, and Leo Nucci. After Amicafest, Johann continues his summer with the Styriarte Festival Orchestra in Graz, Austria serving as assistant conductor and pianist with Maestro Andres-Orozco Estrada. Johann is looking forward to a wonderful experience in Sicily and thanks everyone who has made his musical journey a reality.


The “Bellini Symphony Orchestra” aims to spread both the lyric and symphonic repertoire with considerable flexibility. Particular attention is given to the artistic and interpretative levels, as noted by all the performers and conductors who collaborated with it. The members of the orchestra almost entirely belong to the official lyric orchestra of the Teatro Massimo “Vincenzo Bellini” in Catania and have experiences and collaborations with the greatest conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, Alain Lombard, Yuri Temirkanov, Michel Plasson, Georges Prȇtre, and many others.