A leading international artist possessing penetrating interpretative powers, Yeol Eum Son had our patrons standing and cheering when she performed in our 21st season. The highly popular artist was a winner at the XIVth International Tchaikovsky Competition and recipient of the Silver Medal at the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. She performs with notable orchestras worldwide.
New York Concert Review says she posses, “A kind of superhuman eclat that can easily remind you of Hoffmann or Lhevinne in its supremely clear, neat and even brilliance.”
Her discography includes a work released in 2016 with the music of early 20th century composers, Berg, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Ravel as well as her debut CD of complete Chopin Etudes released in 2004 and Chopin Nocturnes for Piano and Strings in 2008.
Currently residing in Germany, Yeol Eum Son studies with Arie Vardi at the Hochschule für Musik Theater und Medien Hannover. She holds a degree from the Korean National University of Arts, under the guidance of Dae Jin Kim. Previously she had studied with Cheng-Zong Yin, one of China’s most prominent pianists. Yeol Eum is an honorary ambassador of the Seoul Arts Center and her home city of Wonju.
Mozart composed this set of nine variations in 1778 while in Paris, after watching a production of Julie, an opéra-comique (a genre of French opera that intermingles spoken dialogue and arias) by the now little-known composer Nicolas Dezède (1738–92). The introduction, an Andante, is a statement of a playful theme from one of the work’s ariettas. The variations take on different forms and exploit different registers. The delightful first variation contains right-hand passagework, which the second variation answers in the left hand. The third is energetic; the fourth jovial, featuring extended trills on the dominant, first in the right hand and then in the left; and the fifth, the only variation in a minor key, more serious. The sixth variation features pyrotechnic broken octaves in the right hand, which the seventh variation echoes in the left hand. The eighth variation, an Adagio and the longest variation of the set, shows sparkling lightness with 64th notes and rapid passagework. The ninth, the only variation in triple meter, sings out in joy, and contains a free-form unbarred cadenza that features arpeggiated diminished 7th chords. The last bars feature a brief return of the opening theme.
When his 12-tone works were condemned by Soviet censors, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt immersed himself in the study of early music such as Gregorian chant, plainsong, and the choral polyphonic works of the Renaissance. He emerged with a mystic and minimalist style that he called tintinnabuli, which featured unadorned notes of the triad in simple rhythms, as in the ringing of church bells. The Variations for the Healing of Arinushka (1977) exemplifies this style, with hypnotic anapests (short-short-long rhythms) throughout, often with single slow-moving notes over soundlessly depressed chords, creating meditative, cathedral-like echoes and forming simple harmonies. The first three variations have an aeolian modal resonance; the last three variations move to the relative major. The set ends with a surprising arpeggiated chord.
The suite’s title honors Franz Schubert, who wrote a collection of waltzes called Valses sentimentales in 1823; another set, his Valses nobles, is believed to have been written in 1827. Ravel’s music, however, makes no attempt to imitate Schubert’s style. Valses nobles et sentimentales (1911) is a suite of eight waltzes, some more noble and others more sentimental in character, with piquant and sensuous harmonies, and frequently exhibiting Ravel’s characteristic evocations of nostalgia. The suite contains an eclectic blend of impressionistic and modernistic music, which is perhaps more evident in his orchestral transcription of the work the following year.
Franz Liszt composed his set of nine pieces, the Soirées de Vienne: Valses-caprices d’àpres Schubert, between 1846 and 1852, when the first edition was published. The pieces appeared in numerous editions; Liszt made several corrections and small additions to several of the pieces, and in 1882, he considerably reworked and expanded the sixth piece. Based on several collections of waltzes that Schubert wrote between 1818 and 1826, Soirées de Vienne is not a set of transcriptions, but rather a set of paraphrases, with Liszt adding interludes, changing harmonies, creating original materials, and changing many other details. Liszt often included the set in his programs. The balance between dramatic chordal sections and graceful, intimate passages in the Valse-Caprice No. 6 makes it a delight to hear. It was a special favorite of Listz’s; he played it as the final number in his last public performance in July, 1886.
Like Chopin, Alkan, and Scriabin before him, Rachmaninoff wrote 24 preludes, one in each major and minor key. (Bach did so twice: once in each of the two books of his Well-Tempered Clavier.) Rachmaninoff wrote his final set of preludes, the 13 preludes of Op. 32, in 1910, shortly after he completed his Piano Concerto No. 3. He wrote his first prelude, the C-sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2, in 1892 when he was 19; it haunted him throughout his performance career by constantly being requested as an encore. He wrote the 10 preludes of Op. 23 in 1904.
Each prelude is a treasure; none in Op. 32 is more beautiful than No. 5, a gentle and lyrical nocturne in G major, and none more haunting than No. 10, an epic and mournful elegy in B minor. Perhaps the most famous is the shimmering No. 12 in G-sharp minor, a favorite encore of Horowitz’s. The thundering prelude No. 13 in D-flat major forms a fitting capstone to the magnificent collection.
Friedrich Gulda, an Austrian pianist and composer, became famous in 1946 when he won the Concours de Genève at age 16. Coincidentally, 11 years later, his most famous pupil, Martha Argerich, who referred to Gulda as her most important influence, won the same competition, also at age 16. In 1950, Gulda played at Carnegie Hall for the first time, and shortly thereafter began dedicating himself more to jazz and to improvisation. In the 1980s, he played with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock.
The ten pieces in Gulda’s collection Play Piano Play, published in 1971 and dedicated to his wife Yuko, are designated in the score as Übungsstücke (exercise pieces) that he nonetheless intended for the enjoyment of both the performer and the audience. The more advanced the performer, the more Gulda encouraged improvisatory changes during the performance, as he stated in the Foreword to the set. The pieces can be considered guides to helping classically trained pianists learn to play with jazz “swing.” No. 1, Moderato, is a playful short piece with syncopations and off-beat accents, to be performed with eighth notes inégales, that is, unequally—not strictly as notated. No. 6, to be performed Presto possibile, is a tour-de-force of left-hand stride-piano jumps, repeated notes in alternating hands, and syncopated rhythms guaranteed to set toes a-tapping.