Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Son Yeol-eum

The rain traps me in the Maddox-Muse Building, where the press room is. Since I'll get soaked if I cross the street to Bass Hall, I opt to watch the performance in the viewing room in Maddox-Muse's Van Cliburn Recital Hall. The piano is pretty closely miked, so you don't get the reverb that you get in the hall, and you don't get a sense as to whether the sound from the piano is filling the space. It's like you're in a recording booth with the piano. You also get to see the pianist from multiple camera angles, including the camera on that boom that swings in graceful arcs behind the musician on the stage (out of the pianist's sightlines, I'm assuming). It's not as good a viewing experience, not least because the seats are impossible to sit comfortably in. However, it does have the considerable advantage of being free of charge.

Son comes out in a fetching pink dress and plays three pieces that other pianists have played before. This isn't her fault, of course, but the comparisons don't do her any favors. She performs the same Haydn sonata as Di Wu and can't match her for color. She performs Schumann's Fantasiestucke, but without the emotional oomph that Andrea Lam gave the piece. And she finishes with Liszt's Spanish Rhapsody. This is her best piece, and she's pretty good with it, but she still doesn't have the last ounce of panache that Stephen Beus gave it. Chalk this up as another casualty of the competition format. If she were playing by herself, I might be more impressed.

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