Friday, June 5, 2009

Son Yeol-eum (Concerto I)

Okay, so this is the best concerto performance we've heard so far. After hearing Chopin's First Concerto the last two nights, Son Yeol-eum played his Second. She hadn't played Chopin at all in the earlier rounds, and all I can say is, if she'd played Chopin like that earlier, I would've come over to her side a lot sooner. Well, no matter.

Her account of this concerto was elegant and graceful, but then again, you'd have expected that. What I didn't expect was her handle on Chopin's idiom and her total confidence in the way she was playing. It was the same pleasant surprise that I got out of Di Wu's Beethoven: "Oh, so she can play this, too." Unlike the other performances, this one didn't vary in levels of quality between movements. This was good all the way through. (I thought I heard her touch getting a little heavy at the very end, but it wasn't enough to damage what came before.) The declamatory passages were authoritative without losing their beauty, and the soft passages were carefully molded while still sounding spontaneous. Everybody talks about this pianist's finesse and tone, but I've heard relatively little about her creativity and sharp musical mind. Is this because she's a woman and qualities like "touch" and "finesse" are more traditionally associated with women? It'll probably take more than the time I have between performances to figure that out. The important thing is, I wasn't completely sold on her before, but now I finally believe. This feels good.

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