Yoonie Han, p. – Love and Longing = Short pieces of GLUCK, SCHUBERT, PROKOFIEV, GRANADOS, HAHN, WIPRUD & WAGNER – Steinway & Sons

Yoonie Han, p. – Love and Longing = GLUCK (arr. Friedman): Melodie from Orfeo; SCHUBERT (arr. Liszt): Wohin?; Aufenthalt; Gute Nacht; Der Mueller und der Bach; Lob der Traenen; Du bist die Ruh; PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet before Parting, Op. 75, No. 10; GRANADOS: El amor y la muerte; HAHN: La fausse indifference; La danse de l’amour et de l’ennui; WIPRUD: El jaleo; WAGNER (arr. Liszt): Isoldens Liebestod – Yoonie Han, piano – Steinway & Sons 30030, 68:51(5/27/14) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Yoonie Han (b. 1985) has gleaned considerable note for her victories at selected competitions. A pupil of Eleanor Sokoloff, Robert McDonald, and Philippe Entremont, she possesses an articulate combination of fluency and poetic feeling.  This album (rec. 18-22 November 2013), a tribute to love, yearning, and death, reveals her sensitivity in matters of phrase and touch, with a good capacity to make liquid tone.

The Gluck Melodie, rather in slow motion, produces some mesmerizing glitter in the top voices as Orpheus seeks his beloved Eurydice in Hades. The first of the Liszt Muellerlieder, Wohin? conveys the light but piquant rippling of waters that cascade with fatal motion. More stormy sentiments suffuse Aufenhalt from the Schwanengesang cycle, whose tenor line shimmers with fateful figurations. Han’s capacity for tender parlando comes forth in haunted resignation of Gute Nacht from the Schubert Winter’s Journey cycle. The sound of icy droplets mirrors the persona’s romantic lament. Also from the Mueller cycle, Der Mueller und der Bach as arranged by Liszt conveys a meditative sensibility that hovers between folksong and plainchant. Its liquid character opens up a world of erotic infatuation. Lob der Traenen (“In Praise of Tears”) adumbrates much of Rachmaninov’s melancholy, especially the slow movement from his Suite No. 1, Op. 5. Du bist die Ruh (“You are my peace”) invokes a majestic swooning into the keyboard mix, a salute to the restorative powers of love.

A sensuous wash informs Le rossinol eperdu: No. 10: La fausse indifference by Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947), with its askew harmonic procession. From the same cycle we have No. 21: La danse de l’amour et de l’ennui, another parlando musing that harmonizes into a quasi-jazz torch song. The ambiguities of the piece might owe debts to Debussy’s footsteps in the snow.

Not since the recording by Dimitri Bashkirov have I enjoyed the liquid sadness of Romeo and Juliet’s Parting from Prokofiev’s keyboard transcription from his tragic ballet. Delicacy of touch and shifting counterpoint marks this heartfelt rendition, whose underlying, throbbing pulsation intensifies its bittersweet moment, rife with tolling Russian bells.

The largest piece has a Spanish origin, El amor y muerte by Enrique Granados, the fifth of his Goyescas (1911). My own model for this piece comes not, as many might suppose, from Alicia de Larrocha, but from Amparo Iturbi. The composer prided himself on having completed pieces of “great imagination and difficulty.” The huge ballade might be a Spanish cousin to Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude.  The alternation of doxology and guitar strumming proves beguiling, often ringing sonorously in eddies of lilted sound. The one “Iberian” composition intended for pianist Han, El Jaleo (2013), provides an effective etude in various touches and flamenco style by Theodore Wiprud (b. 1958). After a series of glissandos and sparkling arpeggios, it realizes its linguistic origins, to encourage a dancer or performer with cries of accolades. Its fitful starts and stops, much like the veronicas of the bullring, embody the coy motions of the Andalusian seductive gesture that we already know from Bizet.

Despite the preference of some pianists for the Tristan transcription by Mortiz Moszkowski, the Liebestod arrangement by Liszt maintains its hegemony. Liszt adds four potent bars to Isolde’s final aria, then the tremolos and diminished chords enter, stirring whirlpools of love and death. The impassioned singing and cascades of self-immolation from Han’s Steinway D resonate effectively, courtesy of engineer Daniel Shores and Han’s piano technician, John Veitch.

—Gary Lemco

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