Judy Drucker returns with impressive double serving of Cliburn winners

By Lawrence Budmen

Cliburn winner Yeol Eum Son performed Friday night at New World Center, an event presented by a revived Concert Association of Florida.

Longtime South Florida concert impresario Judy Drucker launched a revived Concert Association of Florida Friday night with a contrasting doubleheader recital by two winners of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at the New World Center in Miami Beach. A well-populated house cheered a heady program of pianism both subtle and barn-burning by one veteran and one new face on the competition circuit.

Yeol Eum Son, Silver Medal winner of the 2009 competition, is a proponent of the romantic keyboard tradition. Not for her, the relatively straightforward, uninflected style of playing taught in many conservatories and heard in competitions. The Korean pianist exhibited competition mode in her note perfect, finely judged command of the keyboard, yet this young pianist’s performances of works by Schumann and Chopin were anything but academic. Her liberal use of rubato, personalized phrasing and molding of the musical line hark back to another era; yet Son never allowed her interpretations to reach the point of exaggeration, finding a middle ground between strong-willed passion and artful musicianship.

The opening movement of Schumann’s Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17  was initially somewhat cool but soon Son’s romantic impulse took over, bending phrases and inflecting the musical pulse. In the martial second movement, the usual metronomic reading was replaced by a free-form series of episodes, almost like a stream of consciousness that brought character and a strong personal stamp to every bar. The longing of the subdued finale was conveyed with deep brush strokes, the quiet ending deeply affecting.

Chopin’s Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brilliante was an even more impressive demonstration of technique and style. The Andante was exquisitely drawn, the melodic arch sustained over the full course of the piece, devoid of episodic choppiness. Son played the polonaise at full tilt, drawing impressive power from the instrument while always maintaining an expressive dance rhythm. Both the aristocratic and bravura sides of Chopin were well served.

Yakov Kasman

If Son was the evening’s poet, Yakov Kasman, Silver medalist at the 1997 Cliburn Competition, was the old fashioned, take-no-prisoners virtuoso. He opened with an unusual transcription of Bach’s Largo in A minor (from an organ sonata) by Samuel Feinberg, a Soviet era pianist and composer. The piece owes as much to Feinberg as Bach, its romantic moorings far from the refinements of Baroque style. This hybrid provided a showcase for Kasman’s phenomenal keyboard technique.

The Russian pianist was a natural fit for Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D minor. Filled with ironic humor and savage rhythms, this is the work of a wild, angry young composer. Kasman took the unhinged scherzo at a furious clip, the hand crossings dispatched like child’s play. The pianist’s more introspective side held sway in the slow movement, an aura of solitude artfully conveyed before the dissonant, knuckle breaking finale, played with crowd pleasing brilliance.

Tchaikovsky’s haunting Barcarolle-–June from The Seasons—provided a brief respite. Kasman approached this vignette without sentimentality, exhibiting refinement and lovely melodic coloration. He then launched into the Russian Dance, the first of three movements from Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, at maximum speed and volume. This was big-boned showmanship, threatening to engulf all that followed. Still Kasman managed to suggest the drama and pathos of Petrouchka’s Room effectively, the pauses and outbursts calculated to full effect. The concluding Fair Scene was blazing, Kasman’s lightning fingerwork bringing the audience to its feet.

Returning to the stage, Son joined Kasman for a four hand version of the Waltz and Tarantella by Russian composer Valery Gavrilin.  These melodious, eccentric pieces, reminiscent of Shostakovich’s Dance Suites,  were channeled with lightness and spot-on teamwork by the two pianists, a charming conclusion to a promising comeback by Drucker and the Concert Association of Florida.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Judy Drucker returns with impressive double serving of Cliburn winners”

  1. Posted Feb 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm by Paul Harris

    What concert was your writer attending?????

    Budmen must be blind. Only 35-40% of the seats were filled and a good chunk of those seats were unpaid for… It was VERY FAR from “A well-populated house…”

    I DID enjoy the concert and was interested to see the new hall although the acoustics left a lot to be desired and the sound of people walking on the unforgiving wooden floors – both entering late as a group did just before the intermission, and a couple leaving soon after the intermission made it clear that something has to be done to cover the wooden staircases and walkways.

    La Drucker deserves our congratulations and thanks although the program included no information about the different movements of the pieces played, and the fact that a “premium page” of potential advertising was left blank suggests that she needs to hire a business manager to at the very least arrange an “exchange” with someone like Classical South Florida to better publicize both the radio station AND the work of the Concert Association.

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Sat Feb 19, 2011
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