Friday, May 29, 2009

Son Yeol-eum (semifinal recital)

I watched her in the concert hall rather in the viewing room (like I did in the first round), and I gained a rather more favorable impression of her. She started with six Debussy preludes, and her candy-sweet tone came across. She gave "Les collines d'Anacapri" ("The Hills of Anacapri") a gentle, hushed beauty, but she could bring the power, too, in "Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest" ("What the West Wind Saw"). There were some odd rhythms in "La fille aux cheveux de lin" ("The Girl With the Flaxen Hair"), but maybe she was working from a different edition than the one I learned the piece from.

She then went with Leopold Godowsky's Symphonic Transformation of Themes from Die Fledermaus. It got a huge ovation from the crowd. I liked the playing fine, but I didn't like the piece. It was written by one of the great pianists of his time, using some recognizable tunes from a popular opera and covering them in tons and tons of pianistic embellishments. It struck me like the musical equivalent of sculpting a butterfly with 20 tons of concrete. I would have been more impressed if she'd chosen Godowsky's studies on Chopin's etudes, which contain some passages that'll make even hardened piano virtuosos ask "How the hell do I play this?"

Then she played White Lies for Lomax, and this fourth performance to date was easily the second best so far. She concluded with Barber's Piano Sonata, and though it was more restrained than Beus', with greater attention to tone, I thought the structural nuances of this massive four-movement piece got away from her, especially in the middle movements. The crowd ate it up, though.

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