My brother Howard and I went to a concert by Hyeyung Yoon and Greg Beaver (violin and cello) and Soyeon Kate Lee and Ran Dank (piano and piano) on 10/18/20. It was presented through Yoon and Beaver’s Open Space Music series. Yoon and Beaver were in Jersey City, Lee and Dank were in Cincinatti. The concert was co-presented by Lincoln Friends of Chamber Music in Lincoln, Nebraska. That’s one of the glorious aspects of an online concert, you can pull in people from everywhere. Even Nebraska.
The first piece was the first movement from *Sonata Serrana No. 1* by Gabriela Lena Frank, written for piano four hands. I’ve heard quite a pieces by Frank over the years, her music always knocks me out. This piece was splashy and exciting, it was highly pianistic, as they say in the business. And it looked like it was fun to play - - challenging but rewarding, which is what a great musician wants.
You know I often like to include video clips with my reviews. I looked for a clip of the Frank and the only one I found was a performance by ZOFO, a piano duo based in San Francisco, where Howard lives. They're friends of his, and it turns out they had commissioned Frank to write the piece for them! It's a world of laughter, a world of tears, etc. Here's the full piece, though Lee and Dank only played the first movement:
Greg and Hyeyung played a lovely violin/cello duo by Gliere, a “Berceuse,” which is a sort of lullaby. It had the tenderness you want in a lullaby, also a side order of lushness. It was delicious and Hyeyung and Greg played the hell out of it.
Lee played a solo piano piece, “Prelude La Puerta del Vino” by Debussy. A strong tango vibe, very modern and sexy. Hyeyung and Greg played a movement (the second movement, “Très vif”) from Ravel’s sonata for violin and cello. Greg introduced it by saying that the original plan was for them to play a concert of piano trios with Lee in Lincoln, but obviously that plan had to change! This Ravel piece was raucous! With some wild, growly writing for both instruments, sometimes at the same time. Also a spooky sequence with a lot of disembodied harmonics for the strings. Hyeyung and Greg held nothing back, it was thrilling in the extreme, one of the most exciting things I’ve heard online during the pandemic.
Dank played a solo piano piece, Rachmaninoff’s Etude-tableau Op. 39 No. 5 in E-flat minor. He said it was one of the most popular solo piano pieces in the repertoire, and I feel like I grew up with a recording of Horowitz playing it…? I might have to research that. It had all the things you would ask for in a Rachmaninoff piece, it crashed and surged and threw waves of heavy perfume at ya. Dank really delivered on every level. I especially how he pulled the tempo back leading up to a climax, that’s camp of the highest order (and totally my lane).
The next piece, “Pali-Pali!!” for violin and cello, was introduced by the composer, Texu Kim. He said that “Pali-Pali” means “very fast” in Korean, and speed is a huge part of the Korean culture. It started off sort of lazy and swoopy. My brother Howard also attended this concert, online from San Francisco, and he and I texted a bit (neither of those things possible at an in-person concert). Howard wrote me “herrmann.” Meaning Bernard Herrmann, the great composer of many Hitchcock film scores and lots else. It did have a strong Herrmann vibe. The piece quickly built up a head of froth. At one point it felt like the two instruments were doing things totally unrelated to each other, a daring kind of sloppiness. Kim gave the impression of writing outside the box, writing exactly what he wanted, and Hyeyung and Greg squeezed every last drop of juice out of the damn piece.
The last piece was Shostakovich’s concertino for two pianos. Shostakovich wrote it for his son and a colleague of his in college. Dank said that it had an earworm that would stick with me for days, which worried me a little. I need not have worried, the tune was catchy but not dangerously so (at least not for me). The piece was classic Shostakovich, a glittery surface distracting the listener from the murky disturbance happening elsewhere. Often just under the surface, but in this piece I think it was a little further off. It was delightful that the concert began and ended with splashy music for two pianists, it made me smile.