THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

Yeol Eum Son

Review: Yeol Eum Son | Cliburn Concerts


Commission Accomplished

Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son plays Cliburn piano commissions from Bernstein, Barber, Copland, Bolcom and other composers.



published Thursday, January 26, 2012

One of the lesser-known facts about the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is that they commission a substantial American composer to write a new piece for each event. This piece is required of the competitors in the semi-final round. They don't see it until a couple of months before they the contest. This serves a dual purpose. First, it demonstrates the pianist's ability to learn a completely new piece in a short time period. Secondly, it adds new pieces by American composers to the solo piano repertoire. 

On Wednesday, the Van Cliburn Foundation presented seven of the 10 works that had been commissioned between 1969 and 1997, played in chronological order. The pianist for the evening was the silver medal winner of the 13th Cliburn (2009) and, by the way, also the silver medal winner in the XVI Tchaikovsky International Music Competition in Moscow: Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son

In a recent interview, she explained that her name is really just two names, not three as it appears in writing. Yeol Eum, her given name, is really one word, but it consists of two characters in Korean. She searched a bit to translate Yeol Eum, but settled on "bearing fruit" or maybe "fruitful." Son is her family name. 

Fruitful certainly describes her playing. She plays as naturally as an apple tree bears apples. She sits tall at the keyboard and moves her hands very slowly to get into position before she starts. This almost Zen-like movement also occurs during pauses in the music and in a more exaggerated way at the end. The audience sits frozen in silence while she slowly withdraws her hands from the keyboard. Finally, she appears to collapse backwards, and then we know the piece is finished and the spell is broken. 

Shields-Collins Bray, a stalwart at Cliburn events, narrated by offering short commentary before the first three selections and then again before the last group. He was also part of the group that chose the pieces that would be on the program. Son didn't have any input. "Buddy [Bray's nickname] knows how I play and my abilities, so I knew he would pick pieces that would be a fit for me," Son said. 

Unlike other Cliburn events that are almost exclusively in Fort Worth, this concert was in the Horchow Auditorium in the Dallas Museum of Art. The place was packed, and while this may have been due somewhat to the fact the concert was free, you could tell that the capacity audience knew pianists and piano repertoire. They gave Son a rousing and well-deserved ovation after individual works and again at the end. 

Son gave an impressive account of all seven pieces. They were: Dello Joio, "Cappriccio on the Interval of a Second" (1969); Copland, "Night Thoughts" (1973); Barber, "Ballade" (1977); Bernstein, "Touches" (1981); Corigliano, "Fantasia on an Ostinato" (1985); Schuman, "Chester: Variations for Piano" (1989); and Bolcom, "Nine Bagatelles" (1997). 

What is most interesting about this list is how few of these works have actually made it into the repertoire. To the best of my knowledge, only the Corigliano is programmed regularly. It was also Son's favorite. "I plan to add the Corigliano to my repertoire," she said. "Maybe the Barber." 

She didn't have much time to learn the program since she is playing a lot of concerts these days. "None of them were really hard in a transcendental way, but all are difficult. They all fit in the fingers, which really helps. The Bolcom and the Schuman have lots of fast passages. So they are tricky to learn and risky to play. But, I liked them all." 

That is more than I can say. Personally, I was surprised at the mediocrity of the commissioned works. Mind you, we are talking about the mediocrity of the greatest composers, which is still very good. Even the much-lauded Corigliano wears after a while as it continually bangs out its patterns on a single note. The Copland dates from a time near the end of his life when he was feeling old fashioned and that he needed to write in a more dissonant style to keep current. Hearing it, you would never guess who wrote it. 

The same situation occurred with the Barber. He was a neo-romantic composer whose works, when he wrote what he really wanted to write like in the Violin Concerto and the operas, reaches sublime levels. Here, like Copland, he is trying to duck the slings and arrows of the modernists who constantly belittled him. While it still sounds like Barber, it is wearing an ill-fitted harmonic suit. 

William Schuman, an unjustly ignored composer if there ever was one, took the prize for me with this set of variations on the Revolutionary War marching song "Chester." He used this tune in other works as well. Here, he puts the Chester through it paces in a highly intelligent way. Bernstein's "Touches" is typical of his eclectic style with a grab bag of influences from wild dissonance to jazzy riffs. Bolcom's "Bagatelles" where pleasant to hear but, try as I may, I can't remember much about them now. I have much the same reaction to Dello Joio's piece that opened the program. 

Son was simply magnificent. She called the program a "wide collection of musical styles" and that was a perfect description of the concert. She changed her approach with each work to bring out the composer's intentions with clarity. Even though the pieces had much in common, (sudden changes, sectional structures, fast mood shifts, wide leaps) they all sounded completely different in her able hands. She ran the gamut of dynamics from surprisingly forceful to barely audible and the fast parts were delivered with crystalline clarity. 

I only regret that we didn't get to hear the other three commissions. 

And of course we'll all have to wait until the 14th Cliburn competition in 2013 to hear the next commission, from composer Christopher TheofanidisThanks For Reading





View the Article Slideshow

Comment on this Article

Share this article on Social Media
Click or Swipe to close
Commission Accomplished
Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son plays Cliburn piano commissions from Bernstein, Barber, Copland, Bolcom and other composers.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Fade Snowflakes Watertower Theatre John Uptown Players UNT Dance and Theatre Open Classicial Plaid Tidings Dallas Opera
Gobsmacked
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit