Yoonshin Song, violin, and Sayaka Tanikawa, piano

On Saturday afternoon I attended the second concert of the year hosted at a family friend’s home (the first was by Suzanne Kantorski-Merrill, a soprano singer who was accompanied by Charity Weeks on piano). This past Saturday’s performance was by Yoonshin Song, a violinist from Korea who won the Stradivarius International Competition in 2007, and Sayaka Tanikawa on piano, who is both a soloist and chamber musician.

Yoonshin is quite petite, and the sounds she draws from her violin can be just as delicate, but also strong, angry, and passionate. Sayaka’s playing was clear, bright, and precise, and the two musicians timing was spot-on, almost as though there was a magical bond between them.

Yoonshin’s runs and trills in the Allegro first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 6, Op. 30, No. 1 (which was filled with them), were superb. The second movement, Adagio molto espressivo, was precious, with a simple yet gorgeous melody. Notes slurred into one another, riding the sound waves of the one before. There was a banter between violin and piano during the Allegretto con variazioni third movement; at times they played together, at times they took turns challenging each other. The violin made an announcement, and then quickly rolled notes introduced a new section in the music, as it increased in power and became moodier. That moodiness eventually gave way to lighter, agreeable music, which ended the piece.

Yoonshin played solo for the second piece on the program, Elliott Carter’s Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi for Violin Solo, a forward thinking contemporary work. A unique blend of techniques are used to achieve the sometimes odd and dissonant sounds. It was an interesting work, and I look forward to hearing how Yoonshin continues to evolve with her playing of it.

I thought Yoonshin was well suited for Camille Saint-Saens’ Waltz Caprice, Op. 52, No. 6, which was next on the program. The intro was incredibly dramatic, before the beautiful waltz began. More drama followed, interspersed with quiet gentle passages of beauty which were embroidered with sullenness. Double-stops were spread throughout the music, only adding to the drama, and violin and piano advanced to great heights before dropping, only to rise again. There was a pause in the music, before it started again and increased in tempo, flashing to a finish.

Low, ominous notes on piano opened Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80, and violin entered the Andante assai first movement just as darkly. Violin and piano then mimicked one another, the music gloomy and despairing. The violin became flowing and heartbreaking, as piano played even more darkly, with loud chords reaching to the bottom of the keyboard. Violin moved on to play muted fast runs, and was then plucked, before returning to the soft runs — piano all the while playing notes one at a time in the background, affecting ones subconscious. The Allegro brusco second movement was even more restless than the first, feverishly twisting through the bars of music. Piano rumbled in that movement as well, and the music was biting. Parts were like an embittered angry lullaby, but a lullaby all the same — a nice contrast to the harsh beauty of the rest of the movement (and after her fierce playing of it, Yoonshin had to tune her violin). Piano dreamily opened the Andante third movement, joined shortly by violin playing with muted strings once again, and the dreaminess lasted throughout. Like droplets of sound falling from the heavens, piano tinkled away, and violin beckoned the listener, urgently seeking understanding and acceptance. The music floated through from another place, as though on the wings of supernatural creatures — on the fringes of our world, but not. The Allegrissimo last movement progressed in a locomotive-like fashion; steadily, but with more innovation than even a train. The darkness reached it’s full potential in the final movement, finally realized in all it’s shadowy splendor.

Gloomy was the theme for the second half of the program it seemed, for Henryk Wieniawsky’s Faust Fantasy, Op. 20 was as well (although not nearly as much as the Prokofiev). Yoonshin’s hand moved as gracefully as a ballet dancers feet do, as it moved up and down the neck of her violin. The tones of the music were discerning, and the melody was the definition of expressive. In the next stage of the piece, violin had a different perception and wailed with fury. It then calmed, and most traces of angst were gone, leaving in it’s place a free and boundless song touched with warmth and happiness. The music proceeded to turn into a dashing waltz, designed to showcase the violinist’s talent (in this case, extensive), and the ending was positively exhilarating.

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