Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 2: Rehearsals and Prelude Recital

Sejoon Park gave the competition and festival an inspirational beginning. He began by sympathizing with this year's competitors who probably would rather be practicing than listening. He promised to keep it short. However, the crowd didn't let him....

Not "to cheat the system," Sejoon also spoke about his pieces. He explained that, just as you like to order your food so you know what's in it, it is helpful to know what to expect from a music piece. He began with an "appetizer" - two sonatas by Scarlatti. He wrote over a hundred of these, inspired by his love for a Spanish princess. Sejoon would "just have gotten her a flower every day," but Scarlatti was a musical genius. Just as promised, the music was charming and sweet. His voicing of the lines and harmonic progressions was particularly sweet.

Next, though he "hated to keep making food references," Sejoon served a Spring salad; that is, Schubert's Sonata no. 13 in A major, which always reminds him of Spring. One of the contestants said afterward that he always disliked this piece, until hearing Sejoon's interpretation. The first movement was pleasant and beautiful; the second was peaceful and idyllic, after settling a voicing issue in the opening bars; and the last was lively - not only with energy, but with his timing. It reminded me of the great Josef Lhevinne's statement, "Play the rests!"

As an "afterthought," Sejoon added Schumann's Arabesque in C major - simple and beautiful. In the B section, the listener was cast into a new world; one that was dreamy and lost in thoughts.
Glinka's The Lark was cheerfully songful and sparkling. This was followed with the heavy, serious Rachmaninoff Sonata no. 2 in B-flat minor. Sejoon talked about the serious and sad life of Rachmaninoff, and proceeded to communicate that feeling with his playing. There were spacious reflections and deep emotion, bringing to mind Rachmaninoff's statement that while others write music from their head, he writes from the heart.

The audience couldn't get enough of Sejoon. His first encore was Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 13. Following extended applause, he asked, "Would you like more?" and proceeded to play another exciting show piece with a thunderous technique and resounding approval.

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