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RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Yoonjung Han

PIANIST YOONJUNG HAN OVERCOMES MUSICAL OBSTACLES IN MARIN THURSDAY CLUB RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Virtuoso Korean pianist Yoonjung Han had tough barriers to surmount in her Jan. 19 Tiburon recital. Plying a repeat date for the Thursday Marin Musical Club after a 2011 recital had been cancelled, the Curtis Institute-trained pianist found an audience of 60 eager to hear her program, but was confronted with a sub professional piano wholly inadequate for her artistry. Additionally, the instrument reportedly had no pre-concert preparation and was unable to effectively respond to Ms. Hanís demands. And compounding the poor sonics, the Westminster Presbyterian Churchís heating system added loud fan and equipment noise to the music.

Well, an artist forges on, and Ms. Han did so with aplomb and poise. Beginning with Busoniís iconic transcription of the Bach Chaconne in D Minor, S. 1004, she managed the technical challenges of the music despite the instrumental limitations. The octave playing was often fierce, the march sections played fast and the chorale sections stately. There was a lack of clarity above a mezzo forte due to the muddy bass of the piano but nevertheless the artist managed to produce a powerful sound.

Godowskyís seductive transcription of the Albeniz Tango from EspaŮa, Op. 165, No. 2, received a more forceful and loud performance than usually heard, but its rhythmic charm and legato was palpable. Lisztís La Campanella, the third of Lisztís six Paganini Etudes, lacked subtlety and the last ounce of speed, but Ms. Hanís encompassing technique still sparkled with clear scale passages and crystalline trills. The same composerís En Reve was omitted from the program.

Mompouís curious Variations on a Theme by Chopin came next, 12 elaborate variations based on Chopinís Prelude in A. It's curious because most sets of piano variations have lots of contrasts with fast-slow sections, wide stretching of the theme and such. Mompouís work from 1961 has nearly the same texture, tempos and harmonies throughout. The third variation is for the left hand alone and there was a cherry nod to Chopinís Fantasie-Impromptu in the sixth Variation. Ms. Han played the Mompou very well, in no rush to get anywhere, and the audience provided loud applause.

Without an intermission, the concert concluded with two extended works from Granadosí magisterial Goyescas Suite. Los Requiebros (flattery) was played improvisationally with lovely colors and a strong double-note technique. The last left-hand chord was rolled, a deft effect. The more extended El Amor y a Muerte (love and death) was broadly conceived by Ms. Han, her affinity with the shifting hues of the grandiose Spanish idiom was exact. The long moody and even menacing introductory section was wonderfullY performed and the artist underscored throughout the modulations and meandering character, including a forceful coda. Itís a difficult piece to interpret but the pianist played with smoldering emotion and convincing authority.

There was no encore offered to substantial applause, and the reviewer had the feeling that the artist wanted to be quickly rid of the recalcitrant instrument and simply meet her appreciative audience at the Club's traditional post concert tea and dessert.

Elenor Barcsak and Kenn Gartner contributed to this review.