Exciting time at Angel Place

March 19, 2013 by Fraser Beath McEwing
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The International Pianists in Recital series held in the Angel Place City Recital Hall began on Monday night with an eclectic program by young Korean pianist, Joyce Yang, writes Fraser Beath McEwing.


Joyce Yang

Joyce Yang

Yang has become quite a favourite of Australian audiences – she debuted here in 2010 – with her wide program choices, vivacious personality and towering technique. She also distinguishes herself by playing some notes so softly she runs the risk of them not sounding at all – one of the hallmarks of Hororwitz.

The concert, which played to a disappointingly small audience, opened with five pieces by Bela Bartok under the heading of ‘Out of Doors’. While Bartok tends to divide listeners between lovers and haters, these pieces do much to bridge the gap. Often percussive and atonal they nevertheless paint vivid pictures, especially through Yang’s fearless interpretation. Her gift of producing clear voices in the harmonic mix was immediately evident in the Bartok group, and never left her throughout the program.

Joyce Yang is not just somebody who plays the score that is put up on the desk in front of her. In the case of Schumann, she knows him like a member of her own family and can feel his bipolar pain and his often -denied passion through his music. That manifested in Fantasiestiucke Op.12, a group of eight pieces, each with a guiding title. In the wrong hands, Schumann can sound like a rampaging collection of notes, but Yang sorted out the voices and brought forth the poetry. Probably the best known of the group is Aufschwung (Soaring), but here Yang let technique override the music as she rushed, rather than let it flow. For the rest, Yang retired to the shadows and let Schumann tell the stories, which, in the end, is what every pianist is trying to achieve.

The ever-popular Sergei Rachmaninoff accounted for the rest of the program. It began with three of his songs arranged as solo piano pieces by the late American pianist Earl Wild. As well as a significant composer, Rachmaninoff was known for transcriptions of his own, and other composers’ work. In this case, Wild took over as transcriber in Dreams, The Little Island and Vocalise. Yang revelled in the rich textures and multiple voices of these pieces. Dreams kept pretty much to the original song whereas The Little Island substituted sparkling runs for chords. When it came to Vocalise, probably Rachmaninoff’s best known song (albeit without words) Wild obliged Yang to present a concert statement of high impact, turning a somewhat wistful song into demanding bravura so reminiscent of Wild.

Thus warmed up to Rachmaninoff, Yang ripped into the second sonata and showed how suited she is to this type of Russian romanticism. Played as a continuous piece, the three movement sonata has become a favourite of pianists and audiences alike – especially in recent years. It is dangerous and exciting music that calls for technical power, vast swings of mood and a sense of architecture to give it coherence. Yang was well up to the task, again showing her ability to bring out contrasting voices and the hammer blows of huge chords.

Joyce Yang is due back in Australia later this year and again next year.

Fraser Beath McEwing is an accomplished pianist and commentator on classical music performance and is a founding member of The theme & Variations Foundation Advisory Board which provides assistance to talented young Australian pianists. His professional background is in journalism, editing and publishing. He is also the author of three novels.He is a Governor of the Sir Moses Montefiore Home.


3 Responses to “Exciting time at Angel Place”
  1. Harry Joachim says:

    So because the author of this piece is a Jewish community macher, it gets published, even though it’s not a Jewish performance venue, Ms Yang is presumably not a member of the tribe, and it has no relevance to Jews or Judaism. Come on JWire, this site is beginning to look like the pages of the AJN!

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