Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lee So-yeon

The first of four South Korean pianists (all women, interestingly enough) conforms to Western practice and places her surname after her given name, as you can see in the name of her website. This is her second time competing at the Cliburn, and she came out in a nice-looking lemon-colored dress and played two suites. The first book of Albeniz' Iberia was played with a great deal of Spanish flavor, especially the bustling "El Puerto," though she smudged a few of the alternating chords on "Fete-Dieu a Seville." She did well to bring a different sound to each vignette in Schumann's Carnaval. (She's the only contestant playing this piece in the first round.) You can see why the judges brought her back; she's a solid, intelligent interpreter, and though she never thrilled me to my core, she did lots of little things that kept me engaged, like the slower-than-I'm-used-to-hearing rhythm she took for "Eusebius" that nevertheless convinced me. I put her on the bubble for semifinalists, but a down-the-middle player like this tends to go over better with competition judges than with me. Still, if I were to come across her again, I'd expect a good performance. This is the sort of player who inspires confidence.

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