MinJung Baek at St Mary’s – crystalline clarity and intelligence at the service of music

Thursday 13 April 3.00 pm 

Playing of crystalline clarity and precision allied to an intelligence and real musical understanding.It allowed her to shape everything she did with such architectural authority of great strength thanks to her considerable technical prowess and the ravishing sounds she could mould from the piano with such sensitivity.

Three Scarlatti Sonatas without the repeats made for a glorious single movement of clarity and precision.The famous C major Sonata K 159 was played with a very convincing military style energy that completely changed its usual rather lightweight character.And the scintillating energy she brought to K 427 was quite hypnotic in its relentless forward movement.
It was the same clarity that she brought to the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata op 53.One of the most technically challenging of Beethoven’s 32 it held no terror for Minjung.Her absolute clarity and precision in the Allegro con brio was allied to her driving rhythms and dynamic energy.The second subject though could have been given more space and elegance.By taking the overall tempo from here would have meant she could have kept the same architectural shape that she had managed to maintained with the same musical intelligence.Allegro con brio it certainly was but there were moments that a more ‘bel canto’ approach to some of the scales and arpeggios could have been shaped more elegantly at a slightly slower tempo.She could have taken a leaf out of her own book as the ‘Allegretto moderato’ last movement was slightly on the slow side as she had taken the tempo from the beauty she was able to shape out of the Rondo theme.She maintained the same tempo throughout all the ever more pyrotechnical difficulties of the episodes allowing the rondo theme to flow so beautifully every time it returned.It gave her space too to augment the tempo of the coda following Beethoven’s own indication of ‘Prestissimo’.She brought exhilaration and excitement to the coda never slowing down for the octave scales which can sometimes be played glissando but MinJun managed to split between the hands to great effect.
The Adagio molto introduction that Beethoven had substituted for the original slow movement (that was to appear at later date as the Andante Favori) was beautifully shaped.It was played with great intensity and scrupulous attention to Beethoven’s very precise indications.Sumptuous sounds that prepared us for the bell like luminosity of the G that Beethoven miraculously brings to life with the pulsating movement of the Rondo.
Rachmaninov playing to treasure for its sumptuous beauty,sense of balance and intelligence.Her transcendental technique allowed her to concentrate on the musical line that no matter how many notes were spread over the keyboard shone through with sumptuous beauty and luminosity.Substituting the famous fifth Prelude for the languid beauty of the first op 23 n.1 .There was subtle beauty to the melodic line as it rose to a luxuriant climax only to die away to the final repeated chords each one given a different intensity.There was grandiosity and virtuosity with the B flat Prelude where the melodic line was allowed to shine through the maze of ravishing sounds that surround it .She brought quixotic humour to the fleetingly capricious third which contrasted so well with the stillness and beauty of the long melodic line of the fourth in D.She brought delicacy to the embroidered accompaniment as it built to a climax of passion and elegance.There were the romantic meanderings of the seventh in E flat where the melodic line was shaped with great style above it.The busy weaving of notes in the final C minor Prelude where she allowed the melodic line to shine through the maze of notes that she was spinning with transcendental virtuosity.Whether in the treble or the bass her musicianly sense of line gave great architectural shape to this most noble of Preludes.There was a scintillating coda too that exploded to the final majestic chords.

A beautifully stylish performance of Liszt’s arrangement of Schumann’s Widmung ( Devotion) showed the same simple pure musicianship that this very fine artist had displayed throughout the programme .

London based, South Korean pianist MinJung Baek is returning to give a recital at St.Mary’s Perivale in London. Since her talent was immediately recognised when she entered her first competition at the age of five, she went on to win more than fifty prizes in Korean national competitions and at international competitions including the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe Competition; Skokie Valley in USA; the Giuliano Pecar, Liszt, Pietro Argento and Rachmaninoff piano competitions in Italy. Since her first public recital appearance at the age of eight and at age ten the orchestral debut with the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra, her sensitive touch, expressive playing, and strong charisma have led her to perform at prestigious halls including Carnegie Hall, Barbican Hall, Wigmore Hall and extensively throughout in 5 Continents. 

MinJung has been invited to play as a soloist with numerous orchestras and her performances and interviews have been broadcast on KBS, Rai, Rai Radio 3, ITV, PBS and WQXR. Recent highlights include invitations as a faculty at the East/West International Piano Festival in Shenzhen, China, one of the most prestigious international piano festivals – the International Keyboard Institute&Festival in New York City and the Haus Marteau in Germany and a jury at national and international competitions, releasing her four CDs <Rachmaninoff>, <Beethoven vo.1>, <Scarlatti> and <Beethoven vol.2> under the Onclassical, Italian label, all albums immediately embarked as a “Popular Release” on including Spotify, Highresaudio and AppleMusic and the critically acclaimed CDs have been presented on RaiRadio3 and RadioClassica. In this season of 2023, new albums will be continuously released and she is looking forward to meeting her lovely audiences in recitals at such prestigious concert halls including the Carnegie Hall in NYC and the Concergebouw in Amsterdam.


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