- Interludium for piano
Ripples on Water: Piano Music from Koreaby Klara Min
Quite often one thinks of classical or art music as originating in the West, but this album proves that there is indeed a vibrant culture of art music from Asia. South Korean pianist Klara Min showcases works from a few 20th century Korean composers. Younghi Pagh-Paan's "Pa-mun" (Ripples on Water) captures a sense of play and the motion of water. One hears slow ripples first, then faster droplets or faster ripples. Though there is emotion here, it is overall a quiet piece. Isang Yun's "Fünf Stücke" is a series of five miniature pieces that are atonal, or, rather, are not primarily about linear harmonic or melodic structure. Min makes each note count, and keeps with the character of each piece, playing the Allegro brightly and actively, and the Allegretto active and moving forward. Yun's "Interludium A" shows off Min's athletic playing, and she never seems to miss a note anywhere. Perhaps the most interesting works on the album are by Uzong Chae. These Preludes have interesting chords and are slightly tonal. The "Prelude No. 7" even briefly goes tonal, with an echo of Bach. "Prelude No. 8" is also fairly tonal, with a hypnotic repeating pattern. Min clearly chooses which notes to emphasize, giving shape to these patterns, and this makes the piece engaging. Also hypnotic is the second movement of "Go-Poong" (Memory of Childhood) with its repeating motif with carefully placed notes sprinkled above. Min is able to bring mystery into this entire work, which is sometimes dark and menacing. If one is looking for Korean traditional or folk music, this album is not about that. Rather, it might be more accurate to say that this album is an example of Korean composers who have drawn upon Western, mid-20th century compositional techniques. So much of the music is universal; that is to say, it could have been composed anywhere in the world. Klara Min has done a worthy job of tackling challenging music by the leading composers of her homeland. ~ V. Vasan
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Performance CreditsKlara Min Primary Artist
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Reviewers want to write good reviews, really. In this CD of South Korea piano music from the Late 20th C, the pianist Klara Min makes a valiant effort and she is definitely a gifted performer (She's also very attractive which is prerequisite for all new classical artists). But I have two major complaints, which make me sound crankier than I really am. First of all, is this Korea music? Sounds more like a Second Viennese School epidemic swept over South Korean-only the North Koreans would have the good sense and army to keep this music out of their country. Not only (in general), is the music completely lifted from 1920-30's Germany, it is entirely derivative of that style, AND is also dated in that style-being at least 20 years behind the proto-serialist curve. My second complaint is Klara Min is not the player for this music-although some aspects she does very well. Her whole approach is too politely Mozartian, her playing lacking the exaggerated tempos, dynamics, and phrasing needed to bring this already dying music alive. The first piece is by Pagh-Paan (1971 ) and I swear I'm listening to the Schoenberg Piano Concerto, 30 years earlier. The next piece is the famous Isang Yun (1958) with more Schoenberg/Webern barnburning derivativeness. Finally, in the next piece, "Interludium "by Isang Yun (1982) there's more musical interest, as Korea no longer sounds like a satellite of Weimar Germany. There's More messiaenic /French pianism and a more post-serial /post modern approach. This style also includes a Stockhausen/Asian neo-simplicity and as well as 19th C /French pianistic gestures. Formally it pits more reflective spacious sections with violent passionate ones. Her best playing throughout the CD is in the slow reflective stuff -just a simple repeated motiv -it's very effective. She brings a kind of delicate, brittle vulnerablness to her playing-which is great for Mozart. But this music also needs extreme playing -flawless transitions and violence where the piano timbre turns to white heat. The next piece is Sukhi Kang (1966) and we're back to very sparse webernishness with slightly more tonalized rows. She does do the row melodies with exquisite shaping. Sadly this music is very much from the 1930's sound world --other major composer in the 60's were already stretching serialism to its death kneel conclusion. The penultimate composer is Uzong Chae (2003 )and as Ms. Min has chosen 3 excerpts from a larger piece, it's difficult to know the composer's vision. It's like still photographs of a feature length movie. This is regrettably the only 21st c piece stylistically --coplandesque motiv (Billy the Kid) over multi-layered tonality. Finally, the last piece by Chung Gill Kim (1982) is again excerpts-so it's difficult to know the context of the music-least it's not serial. There is some really interesting 'stare music' (best music on the CD and more of her best playing) that repeats the same patterns in the left and right hand.---this kind of playing requires a deep intuitive understanding of the shaping of the long patterns. It suddenly occurred to me there a kind of Russian folk quality present-- I've never thought how close the countries are. In conclusion, unless you are researching the spread of the disease of academic serialism through the civilized world, probably this CD is not for you. To Klara Mins' credit, she brings a clear and sincere approach.