I heard Greg Beaver and Hyeyung Yoon on 5/17/20 in an online concert presented by the Open Space concert series. Greg was my first roommate when I moved to New York and Hyeyung is his wife. They're very dear friends and two of the most gifted musicians I have ever known. They were cellist and second violinist of the Chiara String Quartet, who I routinely described as "the apex of human achievement."
The concert was broadcast on Zoom and was filmed live in their living room in Jersey City. Greg said that they created the concert series as a personal response to the pandemic. Hyeung translated what Greg said into Korean and did a fair amount of speaking in Korean throughout the concert (many of the audience members are native Korean speakers).
They started with a movement from the Kodaly duo for violin and cello. I often described the Chiaras as having a perfect balance of precision and passion - - in this piece, Greg and Hyeyung had a balance of elegance and guts. It was a sensational opener.
Next up, Greg playing a movement from Bach's cello suite #6. He dedicated it to his first cello teacher, who had died a few weeks ago. His phrasing was very thoughtful and he did a lovely job of delineating the harmonies, but never indicating or illustrating them. He really went to town in the wild, florid section near the end, it got my heart rate up. Who needs the gym when you can hear Greg playing Bach?
The next piece was two movements from a piece that Greg wrote for Hyeyung's 40th birthday. He wrote the "Enigma" movement as the final element of a sort of scavenger hunt that she needed to do to figure out what her birthday present was. He embedded the ticket number for their trip to Hawaii into the music. And she figured it out! I loved the elegaic section and of course it featured super idiomatic writing for the two instruments. The "Scherzo" was entirely pizzicato and my favorite piece on the program. It had a lowdown, funky groove and it made me smile all over.
Hyeyung played the "Siciliana" movement from the Bach sonata #1 for solo violin. From the first phrase, it was sublime, transcendent.
They ended the program with a piece by Mathew Fuerst they had premiered the night before. He took a piece he wrote for solo viola and adapted it for violin and cello by having both players play the same thing, but offset by one beat. Often the melodies would line up together, which was exciting, and it was exciting when they again fell out of synch.
They took questions from the audience. Someone asked how this setting varied from a traditional concert hall performance. Hyeyung said there was a lot of concerns about the technological components of the performance, and also said that the night before she had put on makeup for the first time in a while! Greg said that it was a little strange to not be in the same physical space as the audience, but he was glad to be able to connect with the audience in this way.
They played an encore, an arrangement of a Korean song that Hyeyung dedicated to her parents, who had just retired.
The next concert will be 6/6 and 6/7. Here's the blurb from the website:
"Open Space Music, in partnership with Portland Chamber Music festival in Portland, ME, presents PCMF's Artistic Director Melissa Reardon and artist Raman Ramakrishnan. A dynamic program that includes a new duo by Iranian-Canadian composer Iman Habibi written for the two performers. Live from their living room, chat with them about life as a married couple of great musicians."
I've already bought my ticket.