Author Topic: The Asian Invasion  (Read 8275 times)

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Offline aukhawk

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #100 on: January 05, 2018, 03:09:08 AM »

Klara Min is yet another Korean pianist with a fine pedagogical pedigree making a first appearance in my collection.  ... ...

The 2015 recording was made in Sono Luminus Studios, and not unexpectedly, sound is superb.  The close microphone placement definitely benefits the quieter playing more, though maybe a tad more space could have benefitted the loudest passages.  I look forward to hearing more from Ms Min.

Such as her Chopin Mazurkas, recorded in 2012 and for a different label, Delos.



Programming is a problem - I mean who wants to listen to 17 consecutive Mazurkas?  12 of these are in a minor key, which made the disc very attractive to me, and for the most part this is quiet and contemplative music.  So much so that the two C major Mazurkas played back to back plumb in the middle of the recital come as a bit of a rude interruption.  I'm no expert on Chopin style, but Klara Min seems me to adopt a neutral approach, gentle but with great clarity and very well recorded, that lets the music shine through.  Very enjoyable - but maybe over two or three sessions, 5 or 6 Mazurkas at a time is enough!

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #101 on: January 08, 2018, 06:17:36 AM »



More music from Sung-Won Yang, this time an assortment of short pieces with French ensemble Les Bons Becs.  Said ensemble is a wind and percussion ensemble based in France, with a heavy dose of clarinets.  The disc veers into crossover territory with its inclusion of one work each from Sonny Bono and David Bowie to go along with short pieces from the likes of Albeniz, Kreisler, Villa-Lobos, Schubert, and so on.  That Schubertís Ave Maria survives its transcription still sounding lovely is no surprise at all, and for the most part the other works all sound just fine, if one approaches this disc as a light entertainment.  The transcriptions of two traditional pieces - Amazing Grace and El cant dels ocells - don't work as well, though the former would probably have worked better had Yang played it solo.  Make no mistake, the artists all know their stuff and play very well, and Yangís tone is absolutely lovely and lyrical when needed, and a bit weightier when needed, too.  As with his work with Trio Owon and Enrico Pace, heís also a star who does not need to always be the center of attention.  Itís a fun recording, and since UMG uploaded it to YouTube, thereís no reason to spend even a nickel on it. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #102 on: January 15, 2018, 06:37:00 AM »



Another Add-on snag.  For under $5, I picked up Pi-Hsien Chen's complete Bach Partitas.  I've seen Ms Chen's name mentioned before, and her Schoenberg is on my to-consider list, but this is the first time I've listened to her playing.  Ms Chen was born in Taiwan, started studying early, did the child prodigy thing (first performance at age five), moved to Germany to study at a young age, got her diploma, and did post-diploma studying with Hans Leygraf, Wilhelm Kempff, and Claudio Arrau, among others.  She did the competition circuit, winning first prize in both the Schoenberg and Bach competitions. 

Before sampling Chen's playing, I revisited a better known quantity in AndrŠs Schiff's Decca recording.  Schiff's playing sounds immaculate, lovely, tastefully ornamented, and expressive without overdoing it.  It's just delightful.  (I prefer his ECM recording, but I hadn't listened to the Decca set in a while, so it got the nod.)  Ms Chen's very recent set has a much closer, drier sound than Schiff's, and her playing is a bit starker, with sparser pedaling and more staccato playing.  Her tone is quite attractive, her dynamic control exact and fine.  Her rhythmic style changes piece to piece.  Sometimes, in faster pieces, she plays quickly and with real snap, and other times - the Sarabande of the third Partita, for instance - her playing takes on a very deliberate, very contemplative, almost-stiff-but-not-quite sound.  Sometimes, she manages to mix together seemingly disparate traits successfully, like in the Praeambulum of the Fifth, which alternates between playful and buoyant, and slightly deliberate yet still fun playing.  She also manages to make the Tempo di Minuetto sound personal and unique.  Really, BWV829 emerges as the relatively best thing in the set.  And the whole set is very fine, indeed.  I can't say that it is better than Schiff or Perahia, and I would be surprised if other listeners found it superior to other established favorites, but this newcomer fits right in with other heavy hitters.  This set justifies its standard price; at clearance price, it's a steal.

Good stuff.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline amw

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #103 on: January 15, 2018, 11:49:17 AM »
Iím a fan of her playing in general but didnít know this existed, so thanks...

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #104 on: January 22, 2018, 06:26:37 AM »



I figured it was time for a wunderkind, in the form of Niu Niu.  Niu Niu, real name Zhang Shengliang, was born in China way back in 1997, started playing piano at age three, gave his first performance at age six, and then at the advanced age of nine he started studying under Hung-Kuan Chen in Boston and he also signed with EMI, releasing a Mozart album in 2008.  This disc of Liszt transcriptions was released later in his career, when he was fifteen.  He is now twenty years old.  How time flies.

The pieces included are not my favorite Liszt works, which made this an ideal candidate for streaming.  The first piece, the transcription of Saint-SaŽnsí Danse macabre, reveals Niu Niu to be a young man possessed of awesome technical equipment.  He seems to have no trouble with the music.  Nothing seems fast enough or dazzling enough.  If he needs to play loud, he seems to have many dynamic gradations between mezzo-forte and fortissimo.  Really, how loud do you want it?  Now, he does back off a bit in the Schubert transcriptions, but lyricism and nuance, particularly on the low dynamic end, is somewhat lacking.  Playfulness and excitement, though, are not.  Das Wandern is played as a virtuosic bon-bon, and ErlkŲnig finds Niu Niu playing with verve, stabbing out some flinty upper register notes.  Not surprisingly, the three Liszt Paganini Etudes presented are all played effortlessly.  If one might say depth is absent, that might be more the fault of the music.  The Wagner transcriptions start off with Liebestod that offers more nuance than some of the prior playing might have indicated would be on offer, and Niu Niu has no problems scaling up his playing to a nice quasi-orchestral sound, and if not the tenderest or most touching of renditions, it works.  The Spinnerslied is playful and fun, and almost sounds like Mendelssohn.  (Gasp!)  After a nice O du, mein holder Abendstern, the disc switches back to Liszt.  The famous Liebestraume is nice played but doesnít sound especially dreamy.  The disc ends with the Grand Galop Chromatique.  Only Jorge Bolet has managed to make it sound like proper music.  Niu Niu takes a tack similar to France Clidat in playing it as an unabashed and vulgar showpiece, but he displays absolute command and flashy showmanship in quantities necessary to pull it off.  Itís not musically satisfying, but it would garner much applause as an encore. 

This is a nice enough disc, and given the pianistís age when he made it, one can hope that he ends up maturing a bit more and focusing a bit less on dazzle and more on insight.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #105 on: January 29, 2018, 06:26:44 AM »



My first proper (ie, physical media/lossless) exposure to the artistry of violinist Suyoen Kim.  As she records for Deutsche Grammophon Korea, I assumed she was Korean, but that is not the case.  She is German, born and raised and educated.  Nonetheless, since this release is on DG Korea and she's a bigger star in South Korea than the West, I'm going to post about the disc here.

Earlier in this thread, I covered Ji Young Lim and Dong Hyek Lim playing some Mozart and Beethoven, and I found it well played but somewhat safe.  This all-Mozart disc is more my speed.  Three Violin Sonatas are included, as are two works for Violin and Viola.  Right from the opening bars of K454, where Kim is paired with pianist Evgeni Bozhanov, it is apparent that this set is more robust, more individual, and if not exactly "dangerous" to the other disc's safe, it has some ear catching interpretive devices.  Kim's playing is precise and assured, and she isn't afraid to use healthy dollops of vibrato - or unhealthy, according to taste.  Also, Mr Bozhanov turns out to be a very ear catching accompanist.  His tone is lovely and sort of bell like in higher registers, his articulation mighty fine.  He plays fast or slow movement with a nice fluidity.  The music itself just seems to flow better in all three sonatas than the Lim/Lim disc, and indeed, while I haven't gone overboard on Mozart's Violin Sonatas, I can't think of any versions that are any more to my liking, not even Zukerman/Neikrug or Boskovsky/Kraus.  The disc starts with a very fine K454, and I would have been happy with the other two sonatas being like that, but no, K304 follows, and the degree of fun and bounce and grooviness in the opening movement is positively delightful, while the second movement is more restrained.  This duo ends with another delightful performance, of K378. 

In the Violin and Viola works, Kim is joined by American violist, and fellow Deutsche Grammophon Korea artist, Richard Yongjae O'Neill in a transcription of Ah vous dirai-je, Maman, K265 and the Duo K423.  The variations lend themselves to a duo quite nicely, and Kim's playing is very fine, some of her double stops pulling off the sounding like two violinist trick nicely, and O'Neill's playing is basically equally as accomplished.  The Duo is more substantive, and quite lovely, though Kim's sound becomes a bit too edgy here and there, though that does not detract from enjoyment.

Sound for the 2009 release is DG's best in terms of timbre, dynamics, clarity, etc, but for the Violin Sonatas there is a hard left-right stereo sound reminiscent of years gone by, violin to the left and piano to the right.  The sound for the violin-viola works have a similar left-right balance, though it is less pronounced.

I have Kim's Bach queued up, but I would not mind hearing more from her, or from the other two musicians, for that matter. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #106 on: February 01, 2018, 04:28:23 AM »


Ji Goldberg Variations, worth hearing, some staggering of voices and unusual ornaments. Entertaining.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #107 on: February 05, 2018, 06:25:45 AM »



Ji-Hae Park is not unique in my exploration of Asian artists in that she was born in Germany and records for a Korean arm of UMG, nor is she unique in being more popular in Korea than in other markets.  Suyoen Kim meets both those criteria, too.  So, factoring those tidbits in, as well as the fact that Ms Park is an Honorary Ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, and the fact that she won The Respected Korean award in 2010, among various other political and social honors in Korea, I'll post about her here.  Her website is dreadful, and the Wikipedia page devoted to her appears to be a rehashing of her PR artist bio, but from that it appears that she probably received training in Europe, did the competition thing, and plays a Guarneri.

To the music.  The disc opens with Beethoven's Spring Sonata.  Ms Park and Mr Lepper do not deliver a super-robust reading of the sonata.  Instead, with Park's somewhat small, fine tone helping determine the overall approach, the duo deliver something lithe and playful in the outer movements, and sweet and lovely in the slow movement, with Park not afraid to layer on some vibrato.  Really, sometimes this sonata can become a bit overcooked, but the duo's playfulness makes this most entertaining.  The Schubert D934 Fantasy is a piece I rarely listen to and have only a handful of versions of, but this performance makes me think I may need to beef up my collection some.  The playful overall spirit really keeps things light and soaring, and Simon Lepper's long history of lieder accompanist comes in handy here.  Passage after passage of lyrical beauty unfold effortlessly.  Not even Contzen/Schuch or Gigler/Kempff surpass this recording, though I do need to hear Widmann/Lonquich.  The Brahms Op 78 Violin Sonata ends the disc.  The instrumental balance remains more focused on Park, though Lepper doesn't fade away, and the style remains fairly light when compared to some other versions.  The recurring emphasis is on lyrical playing, though the sound becomes richer and larger scaled in places, and more dramatic when it should.  While I'm not sure I can say it bests Capucon/Angelich or Szeryng/Rubinstein or <insert favorite here>, it doesn't need to and it doesn't really cede a whole lot.  After the first two works, I expected this to be too lightweight, but instead it works very well.

Even streaming, one hears Ms Park breathing quite a bit in places, indicating relatively close microphone placement, while pianist Simon Lepper is presented more distantly.  The overall sound seems like maybe some reverb was added to create a certain ambience and effect since here and there one hears noticeable piano pedaling and reverb at once, but it is just fine.  This is the type of recording that may end up in my collection in physical form.  Superb.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #108 on: February 12, 2018, 06:27:37 AM »



The King is dead!  Long live the Queen!

For about two decades, Maurizio Pollini ruled the roost in Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrouchka for me.  There have been challengers of note - Evgeny Kissin and recently Christopher Park - but no one bested the Italian master.  Until now.

Yeol Eum Son now rules.  In terms of execution, Pollini still has the edge in the fastest passages in Chez Petrouchka, but that's it, and even then, YES offers a different, more flexible, more nuanced, less stark sound.  In the rest of the work, it's all YES, and it's almost a different type of work.  Hardly romantic, it is much more colorful, with far more in the way of subtle dynamic shadings and varied touch, sometimes with YES seeming to play different voices not only at different dynamic levels, but also at different tempi.  She plays with flexibility and fluidity that have never been Pollini's trademarks.  Her rhythmic sense is striking.  I've listened to this work many times, but listening to this version is almost like hearing it anew.  It is a remarkable achievement; it is one of the greatest recordings of 20th Century piano music I've heard.  There's a YouTube video of a live performance that gives a big taste of what this recording is like, and the studio recording itself is on YouTube and other streaming services. 

But it's the third work.  Berg's Piano Sonata is the first work on the disc.  YES sounds right at home playing it.  Her playing is exact in every regard.  Her tone is often a touch bright, even brittle, but then, all of the sudden, it's not.  YES never really creates a warm sound, instead keeping the music uncommonly clean and linear.  At times, she inserts an almost jazzy rhythmic feel to the playing.  This is a mighty fine rendition, and one that demands an A/B with Mitsuko Uchida.

Next up is Prokofiev's Toccata.  There's an almost unnatural ease to much of the playing.  Sure, YES plays the loudest passages with more than enough power and strong accents, but she also plays much of the music with a fluidity and nuance that makes it sound less imposing than some renditions. 

That leaves the two Ravel works that end the disc.  Le Tombeau de Couperin is the first of the works.  Aided by some more generous pedaling, YES delivers a fluid, rhythmically alert reading in the Prelude, only to play a somewhat more austere Fugue, a somewhat languid Forlane filled with some obvious pedal artifacts and much lovely playing, a fast and vibrant Rigaudon, a more contained and touching Menuet, and finally a Toccata possessed of rhythmically insistent but not overbearing style.  It can be compared to any I've heard. 

La Valse ends the disc.  The piece slowly emerges from the lower registers, and YES keeps the playing under wraps and sort of disoriented and hazy until about two-and a half minutes in, at which point her playing becomes more powerful.  She expertly manages dynamics and displays clean and precise fingerwork to match anyone's.  Her softer playing is intoxicating, her loud passages thundering, her glissandi almost trippy.  Every aspect of the playing is well nigh perfect, and the musical delivery is unsurpassed.  Last summer, I listened to HJ Lim's recording of La Valse and determined it to be the best thing I've heard from that pianist.  That is still true.  This version, though, is better, if rather different.

I've watched a good number of YES videos on YouTube, and now I plan on listening to some more of her commercial recordings.  She needs to receive the full international release treatment; she needs to record everything under the sun.  I had high expectations for this disc, but it exceeded them in every way.  I can definitively state that this disc will be among my purchases of the year. 

SOTA sound, as one would expect from a recording made in Jesus Christus Kirche in Berlin in late 2015. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Asian Invasion
« Reply #109 on: February 19, 2018, 06:30:41 AM »



Another disc perfect for streaming.  This is available in various outlets, and UMG uploaded it to YouTube.  Neither the Saint-SaŽns First or Elgar concertos are particular favorite concertos of mine, but they can be enjoyable.  Mee-Hae Ryo was born and raised in Korea, started her musical training early, moved to the US to study at Juilliard and the University of Michigan, then moved back to Korea to teach and concertize, and she spends a good amount of time performing in Europe.  With her background, one would expect technical excellence, and that's more or less what one hears on this recording.  The Saint-SaŽns is well executed by all parties, with Ryo generating a nice tone and playing in an often vigorous if somewhat proper manner, at least when compared to the romantic excess of Maisky or the more exuberant and lithe Isserlis.  Ryo's playing in the Elgar is less heart-on-sleeve than Maisky or du Prť, being more reserved in the manner of Fournier, though not quite so elegant.  Here the orchestra plays with somewhat greater passion than the soloist at times, to good effect. 

Overall, Ms Ryo plays very well, indeed, and I would not mind hearing her in other core rep.  Composer-conductor Amaury Du Closel leads the Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra in professional, extremely well-played support.  This is a very high-grade recording in every respect, but it is not one that demands many listens, like the other mentioned recordings.  The short timing might be an issue if one bought the disc.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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