Hyeyung Yoon (second violinist in the Chiara Quartet) and her husband Greg Beaver (cellist in the quartet) did a recital on 3/26/14, with pianist Soyeon Kate Lee. It was at a fabulous new space downtown, SubCulture, at 45 Bleecker Street. It’s a downstairs smallish concert hall, with a bar! Fabulous vibe, nice stage, great Steinway baby grand, good seating, a warm acoustic, and did I mention they have a bar? They’ve only been open for six months - - I’ve been thinking about doing a recital for my 50th birthday in a few years, I hope they’re still open, this place would be ideal.
They opened with a Bach sonata for violin and harpsichord (Soyeon playing it on a piano). This was the highlight of the evening. They played with clarity and wonderful expressive style, they illuminated the genius that is Bach. Can we agree that Bach is the greatest composer ever? Maybe Mozart wrote things that are more beautiful, maybe Verdi wrote better drama, maybe Messaien is more transcendent - - but I think Bach is the last word in absolute genius.
Then Soyeon played two short piano pieces by Robert Sirota, two movements (“Agitato/Calmo” and “Tender Rage”) from his four-movement piece *Mixed Emotions*. Sirota is a very respected contemporary composer, and is also the father of Jonah, the violist in the quartet. I’ve heard a few of his pieces, and these piano pieces were the best I’ve heard. Idiomatic writing for the piano, effective in conveying the emotions. These were the perfect lead-in for the final piece on the first half, *Pange Lingua*, a sonata for violin and piano. Hyeyung and some members of her family commissioned Sirota to write a piece in memory of her grandfather, Myung Il Paek. He writes brilliantly for the violin (and the piano), the pieces had lots of contrast and beautiful moments. It’s a strong piece, I’d like to hear it again.
The second half was the Brahms C major trio opus 87, with Greg playing cello. It had sweep and grandeur and moments of pathos, but it was Exhibit B that Brahms is not one of my favorite composers. I would so much rather hear Beethoven or Schubert - - and if you want to move into the 20th century, there are incredible pieces by Ives, Ravel, Shostakovich. I could go on and on.