I went to a concert by my friend Hyeyung Yoon on July 27, 2021. The first half was all music by Raimundo Penaforte, a composer whose work I had admired at previous Hyeyung performances.
Penaforte was the sole performer for the first piece, “Bosnia” for violin and voice. It had started as an improvisation and he developed it into a written work. It opened with the bow bouncing over the strings, playing three-note chords. Just when I started feeling like I needed something else he started singing - - long phrases, wordless, a perfect counterpart to the violin part. Later in the piece he added a third element: a foot stomping on the floor, at unexpected rhythmic moments. The piece ended with the bouncing chords getting slower.
The next piece was “Carambola,” played by Omar Chen Guey and April Sun. It started lush and warm, later with surprising changes in mood and texture. An active rhythmic section climaxed with an angular solo by the piano followed by a ruminative solo by the violin. The violinist had loads of sizzle and the pianist was passionate and exciting.
Penaforte and Hyeyung played a new piece, “Hecho Ahora.” It was a wild piece for two violins and Penaforte also singing. It featured some nauseous swooping around and grumbling in the lower register. Yoon did the swooping by bending the pitch in the usual way, moving her fingers along the fingerboard. Penaforte did this but also bent the pitch by altering the tuning. The two players walked around the performance space, adding a bit of drama. At one point Penaforte walked over the piano and played a big BLOM! with his forearm. I wasn’t expecting that. The piece ended with Penaforte playing the primary part in the center of the room but I was drawn to Hyeyung playing something quiet and odd in the back. It was a fascinating piece, I loved it.
The next piece was a world premiere, “Kalimba,” played by Chen Guey on violin and Fernando Hashimoto on marimba. Hashimoto was elsewhere (I think on another continent) so his part was on video, with Chen Guey playing live in the room. It worked very well, the sound was good and the video was engaging. I didn’t enjoy this piece as much as the other pieces, the music didn’t engage me as deeply. But an unexpected harmonic shift near the end made a big impact and brought the piece to a strong finish.
The first half ended with the final two movements of *An Eroica Trio,* written for the Eroica Trio in 1998. This performance was by Hyeyung, Soo Bae on cello, and Heidi Chu on piano. They played the second and third movements of a three-movement piece. It opened with an elegant, dancelike solo for pizzicato cello. The piano and violin came in and it developed into something more elaborate. Some bright and flashing moments from the piano and some gutsy writing for the violin, which Hyeyung played with flavor and ferocity. The ending of the movement was profoundly satisfying, with a harmonically daring upward scale for the violin and the others chiming in to make the daring harmonies seem inevitable. Here's the premiere recording of that movement, by the Eroica Trio:
The final movement was fun and impressive but not as inventive or distinctive as the previous movement. It sounded like Penaforte had a checklist of the things you need to do in a rousing finale to a piano trio and he checked off everything on that list. And is there anything wrong with that?
The high point of the second half was the middle performer (there were five), a Brazilian guitarist who played a bossa nova song I recognized but couldn’t quite place. His playing was very quiet, it made me sit forward and listen in an intentional way. It was beguiling, one of the highlights of the evening. I wish I knew his name, but he was a last-minute add-on so his name wasn't in the program.
The other four performers were not so enjoyable. In each case the music itself was good or at least interesting but the performance was preceded by a long and messy story that involved too many personal details. It made me uncomfortable. But it didn't detract from the glories of the rest of the program!