Minkyu Kim at St Mary’s Viva Franz Liszt – the poet of the piano!

Minkyu Kim was born in South Korea in 1995. He studied piano with Soojeong Jeong at Goyang High School of Arts and with Hyung-Joon Chang and Sehee Kim at Seoul National University. He won many prizes including second prize in the Korean Liszt Competition, first prize in the Jock Holden Memorial Mozart Piano Prize at RCS and first prize in the BPSE Senior Intercollegiate Piano Competition. In addition to performing the entire Transcendental Etudes by Liszt, Minkyu has performed piano concertos with the Scottish Ensemble and Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
After graduating with honours from the university in 2017, he is now attending Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a full scholarship from ABRSM, studying with Aaron Shorr and Sinae Lee.
It was Dr Hugh Mather who recommended me not to miss this concert and  to listen to this “staggering recital by a master pianist”.
And so it was that I listened in Rome on the excellent streaming from Perivale thousands of miles away.Little could Minkyu have imagined that I was listening in the company of:

Vlado Perlemuter and Alicia De Larrocha
Vlado Perlemuter,Alicia De Larrocha,Rosalyn Tureck  and others who adorn the walls of the Ghione theatre just a stone`s throw from St Peters Square.
Minkyu Kim is one of 14 pianist selected to compete in the Utrecht Liszt Competition next March.
A competition that has seen the launching of artists such as Vitaly Pisarenko, Alexander Ullman and Mariam Batsashvili.

Rosalyn Tureck,Stockhausen, Berio,Fausto Zadra and Ileana Ghione
And of course how could Dr Hugh Mather be mistaken as he listens regularly to the finest young pianists in his series dedicated to helping hundreds of young musicians.Offering professional engagements to these young musicians for the loyal very discerning public in his hallowed haven of St Mary`s?
We are used to barnstorming Liszt performances of his early works or rather tepid intellectual experiences with the later obscure works that look very much towards the future.
But today we were treated to both early and late Liszt together with the transcription of 6 of Chopin`s Polish songs
It was of a sublime beauty where every note was caressed with such love and care.Yes caressed for such were the beautiful movements of his hands on the keyboard just as Giulini`s conducting movements were like watching a Michelangelo afresco.
It was the beauty of sound and the subtlety of phrasing that held a rather depleted but courageous audience spellbound from the first to the last note of this all Liszt recital.
Between 1847 and 1860, Chopin’s friend Franz Liszt arranged six of the Op. 74 songs as piano transcriptions under the title Six Chants polonais, S.480, a set which has long been a concert and recording favourite. The six are:
  • 1. Mädchens Wunsch (No. 1: Życzenie – The Wish) Played with great delicacy combined with an extraordinary flexibility and at times passionale musicality
  • 2. Frühling (No. 2: Wiosna – Spring)Such beautiful simple lyricism with some wonderful colouring and very subtle phrasing.
  • 3. Das Ringlein (No. 14: Pierścień – The Ring), which leads without a break into …
  • 4. Bacchanal (No. 4: Hulanka – Merrymaking)A real understanding of rubato brought the Mazurka to life with lyricism and rhythmic energy.A moment of absolute magic before the glissandi that gradually grew in energy until the final double handed flourish.But even here Liszt was careful to fully recognise the subtle artistocratic style of Chopin rather than the demonstrative glissandi of his own Hungarian Rhapsodies.
  • 5. Meine Freuden (No. 12: Moja pieszczotka – My Darling)Played with such a delicate melodic line a meltingly beautiful ending of pure magic
  • 6. Heimkehr (No. 15: Narzeczony – The Bridegroom).The stormy sounds shaped so beautifully by Minkyu where we could almost picture the tempestuous rowdiness of the Bridegroom!
In this arrangement, Das Ringlein leads without a break into Bacchanal, and towards the end of the latter song, immediately before the coda, Liszt includes a short 6-bar reprise of the earlier song.
These were followed by four late works written in 1880 just six years before Liszt’s death at the age of 75.The beautiful En Reve that my teacher Gordon Green(a disciple of Egon Petri) encouraged his students to learn  together with the Bagatelle sans tonalité long before they had been accepted as part of the repertoire.
En Reve is so beautiful – very short as are all these later pieces- finishing as it disappears into oblivion.The Bagatelle too almost like one of the Valse Oubliée fifty years on when the genius of Liszt was reaching far into the distance foreseeing the direction that music was to take.All beautifully and convincingly played by someone who was totally
dedicated to transmitting his love of this music to a public that were following every note of his quite ravishing playing.
The final work was the Grosse Konzertsolo S 176 which was written a few years before the great B Minor Sonata.
As Leslie Howard said in his introduction in this very hall a few months ago this almost unknown or at least rarely played piece would be the ideal preparation for those wishing to approach the B minor Sonata which is one of the pinacles of the Romantic repertoire.
A superb performance that showed not only his ultra sensitivity but also his aristocratic sense of grandeur and superb sense of line.A wonderful sense of balance that allowed the melodic line to sing so mellifluously but allied to an enormous command of the keyboard that could unleash all the extraordinary technical demands that Liszt himself commanded before his astonished and doting public.
A very interesting encore was of the early version of Chasse Neige the last of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental studies .It was fascinating to hear this early version of a much loved piece .
An extraordinary recital of rarely heard music in the hands of a true poet of the piano.All best wishes to him in Utrecht in March. Viva Franz Liszt!

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