South Korean born Jae-Hyuck Cho has appeared at numerous world renowned concert venues
including; Carnegie Hall, The Lincoln Center, Seoul Arts Center
Concert Hall and The Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory. Cho
made his New York debut in 1993 at the Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie
Hall as the winner of the Pro Piano New York Recital Series
auditions. He had further successes in competitions that included;
the Maria Canals International Piano Competition, Sorantin Young
Artists Competition, International Tchaikovsky Competition,
and the most recently captured New Orleans International Piano
Competition in 2004.
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major ‘Waldstein’, Op.53
‘Waldstein’ together with its sister work the
‘Appassionata’ are twin peaks of piano sonata literature
from Beethoven’s middle period. Both are mighty dramas in which
Herculean conflicts alternate with contemplative moods. Conceived
as a work of epic stature the
‘Waldstein’ opens tempestuously. The music of
the allegro con brio is driven by a demonic force until
a resting point arrives with a hymn-like melody. Cho commences rather tentatively and could
have provided more authority especially in the first half of
the movement. He is serious and contemplative throughout the adagio
molto which is a three-part song that pierces the
deepest recesses of the heart. The concluding rondo has
been described by biographer J. N. Burk as having a “jubilant
radiance ... which gleams forth with such complete enchantment.”
Cho plays with a tremendous spirit and momentum in this exciting
the Waldstein I would not wish to be without my favourite
version from Alfred Brendel. This was the one he made in the
Reitstadel, Neumarkt in 1993 on Philips 475 7182. I am also
fond of the interpretation from Maurizio Pollini which I have
on the Deutsche Grammophon ‘The Maurizio Pollini Edition’ 12
disc set on DG 471350-2.
Ravel: Jeux d’eaux (Fountains)
Ravel’s earliest piano works are dominated by impressionism.
It is generally acknowledged that in 1901 Ravel composed the
first ever impressionist work for piano with Jeux d’eaux
which literally means ‘Play of Water’. The work brought
the composer considerable success and on this release the soloist
makes a fine job of evoking Ravel’s images of the music and sounds of fountains, waterfalls
and streams. The extended arpeggios pitted against dreamy
harmonies are most convincing performed and overall Cho transforms
the keyboard into a palette of warm colours.
From my collection I love the interpretation from Frenchman
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet on his 2003 recording made in Bad Arolsen
of the complete Ravel piano works on MDG 604 1190-2. I also
admire the accounts from Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Decca 433 515-2;
Jean-Philippe Collard on EMI CES5 72376-2 and Angela Hewitt
on Hyperion CDA 67341/2.
Schumann: Sonata for piano No.2 in G minor, Op.22
in four grand movements the G minor Sonata is the most
popular of Schumann’s three piano sonatas. It was completed
in 1833 but Schumann completely rewrote the finale in 1838.
The tempestuous opening movement is played with vitality and
high commitment. Actually an arrangement of an earlier unpublished
song, the slow movement has been described as an “ultimate
revelation” and Cho maintains highly sensitive playing
throughout. In the andantino I detected a couple of slight
technical glitches at points 04.19 and 04.21 but they didn’t
unduly detract from the performance. The scherzo is briskly
performed with considerable buoyancy. The finale begins
tempestuously and contains a no less passionate second subject.
The movement ends with an electrifying ‘quasi cadenza prestissimo’
which Cho takes in his stride with tornado-like playing. As
much as I enjoyed this performance I would
not wish to be without the accounts from Murray Perahia on Sony
MK 44569 and Marc-André Hamelin on Hyperion CDA67166.
Liszt: Mephisto Waltz No. 1 ‘Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke’
Around 1859 Liszt
wrote two orchestral scores inspired by the epic poem ‘Faust’
by the Austro-Hungarian poet Nikolaus Lenau. The second of these
works, initially called ‘Dance in the Village Tavern’
was arranged by Liszt for solo piano as the famous ‘Mephisto
Waltz’ No. 1. It is undoubtedly one of the most evocative
of all the musical settings of the Faust legend. Its point of
departure, the opening dance, is a pretext for a piece that
is full of ambivalence and ambiguity, but also overflows with
unexpected and seductive sweetness in its central espressivo
amoroso episode. At the end of this section, the whirling
and somewhat mechanical waltz rhythm takes over once again and
leads into a truly devastating finale. Cho seems especially
suited to this Mephisto Waltz No. 1, with playing
that is adventurous, robust, passionate and highly virtuosic.
Those requiring a varied recital of the familiar and lesser-known
Liszt, containing the two Mephisto Waltzes, should
obtain the recording from Leif Ove Andsnes on EMI Classics 5
Chopin: Fantaisie-impromptu in C sharp minor, Op.66
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor was published posthumously
by Fontana. It was composed by Chopin about 1834 but the title
of ‘Fantaisie’ given by Fontana is superfluous. The agitated
passagework in the near identical outer sections is contrasted
by a singing cantabile middle section that contains what
has become one of Chopin’s most revered melodies and one of
the most timeless in all music. Cho
is not as graceful in the revered melody of the cantabile
section as some of the more renowned Chopin interpreters such
as Ashkenazy on Decca 444 830-2, Hewitt on Hyperion CDA
67371/2, Pizarro on Linn CKD248, Rubinstein
on RCA 09026 63047-2, Perahia on CBS
on EMI 5 66904-2 and Arrau on Philips 4563362.
Malotte: The Lord’s Prayer
Hay Malotte was a song composer of numerous contrasting styles.
His adaptation of the ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ was written
in 1935 and has achieved considerable popularity. Cho
has completed his own transcription for solo piano performed
here with considerable verve.
The sound quality from the Dunelm engineers on this live
recording is acceptable with some blaring in the forte passages.
The booklet notes are rather basic but provide all the necessary
information. A really fine live recital from Cho but the competition
in the feature scores is extremely fierce.