Park, Grosvenor duo recital finds eventual groove in Coral Gables

By Lawrence Budmen

Violinist Hyehoon Park performed with pianist Benjamin Grosvenor Tuesday night at Coral Gables Congregational Church. Photo: Kyutai Shim

Rarely heard works by Karol Szymanowski and Clara Schumann shared the musical menu with Ravel and Beethoven staples on Tuesday night when the Friends of Chamber Music presented violinist Hyeyoon Park and pianist Benjamin Grosvenor in recital. 

The sanctuary of Coral Gables Congregational Church was decked out with Christmas trees and holiday lights, the reflection of which on the Bosendorfer added its own festive aura.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Park demonstrated great technical fluency and impressive agility. She is certainly an exciting player. At this stage of her career, she sometimes plays with such a plethora of intensity that her performances threaten to go off the rails but she managed to avoid overheated exaggeration.

Szymanowski’s Mythes was a bold choice to open the program. A distinctive voice of the early twentieth century, Szymanowski’s music sounds like no other composer. At times his scores stretch to the limits of tonality and his violin works are fiendishly difficult to bring off. 

Park was still warming up in the opening section, “La Fontaine d’Arethuse,” her sound rather slender. For his part, Grosvenor had not yet found the balance for the church’s acoustic and overwhelmed her in the initial vignette. The haunting melody of “Narcisse” was not always clearly projected but Park and Grosvenor brought clarity to the ambiguous harmonic palette. Park cut loose in “Dryades et Pan,” capturing the melodic threads with singing tone and shapely phrasing.

As a solo artist, Grosvenor is well versed in Ravel’s Gallic impressionism and the very first notes of the French master’s Violin Sonata in G Major glistened as his hands seemed to glide across the keys. Park brought unusual clarity to the first movement. Each note was firmly placed and fine glints of color judiciously displayed. She conveyed the jazzy curves of the Blues movement with a wide vibrato reminiscent of the great jazz violin virtuoso Stephane Grappelli. Grosvenor’s light pianistic bursts suggested the ease and informality of a Parisian salon. Park’s rapid articulation of the final perpetual motion Allegro really buzzed and Grosvenor matched her with flashy finger work at top speed.

Three Romances by Clara Schumann provided an enchanting romantic interlude. Park’s cultivated shaping of the central melody in the Andante brought out the passion beneath the notes without resorting to excess sweetness. She captured the heart-on-sleeve fervor of the Allegretto. The principal melody of that movement is as beautiful and memorable as almost any by Clara’s husband Robert Schumann.

Park and Grosvenor offered a revisionist view of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 (“Kreutzer”). In many ways, Beethoven broke from the classical tradition of Mozart’s violin sonatas and his own earlier efforts in the genre with this work. The drama and emotional scope of the score were unique and definitely a challenge for its early audiences.

The Park-Grosvenor duo seemed to be attempting to bring some of that “shock of the new’ and bristling originality to a thrice-familiar opus and they largely succeeded. 

The first movement Presto was a wild ride at a brisk clip which gave the players’ spacious molding of the second subject an acute sense of surprise. Grosvenor took a measured pace for the first statement of the theme of the Andante and Park’s lean sonority and light bowing encompassed the ensuing variations with breezy verve. 

She played the final Presto with unbridled, robust virtuosity. The sheer force and velocity of the performance was slightly wearying but it was fascinating to hear Beethoven’s thematic and harmonic concepts given such a fresh approach.

The duo offered Robert Schumann’s Abendlied as an encore and here Park displayed a depth of feeling and tonal beauty that one hopes will become more prominent as she matures artistically. She is a gifted musician and it will be interesting to follow her artistic trajectory.

The Friends of Chamber Music presents the New York Philharmonic Quartet playing Mozart’s String Quartet in G Major, Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F minor and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet with pianist Joseph Kalichstein 7:30 p.m. January 5, 2020 at FIU Wertheim Performing Arts Center in Miami.

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Wed Dec 11, 2019
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