Risque four-hands piano fires up winter-weary souls

By Yoon Min-sik

PyeongChang Winter Music Festival brings classical and jazz sounds to site of 2018 Winter Olympics

  • Published : Feb 16, 2017 - 16:30
  • Updated : Feb 16, 2017 - 16:30

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province -- The PyeongChang Winter Music Festival got off to a rousing start at Alpensia Concert Hall on Wednesday evening with an eclectic program that played on the theme of this year’s festival -- a mix of classical and jazz.

Pansori singer Ahn Sook-sun, cellist Chung Myung-wha, who is the co-artistic director of the festival alongside violinist Chung Kyung-hwa, pianist Son Yeol-eum and Jun Kye-youl on the buk, or Korean drum, started the evening with a performance of “Three Sarangga for Pansori, Cello, Piano and Buk.”

Composed by Lim Jun-hee, “Three Sarangga” is a modern reinterpretation of the popular song from “Chunghyangga,” a traditional narrative musical piece about love between a young nobleman’s son, Mongryeong, and Chunghyang, an old courtesan’s daughter. 

From left: Cellist Chung Myung-wha, pianist Son Yeol-eum, pansori singer Ahn Sook-sun and percussionist Jun Kye-youl perform “Three Saranga” at Alpensia Concert Hall in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (PyeongChang Winter Music Festival)

The short three movements of “Three Sarangga” incorporate the traditional beats of pansori -- ranging from the slow jinyang and moderate jungmori to the fast-paced jajinmori and its slightly faster counterpart jeungjungmori -- and melodies adapted from the original “Saranga,” pushing the boundaries of both pansori and Western music.

Familiarity with the original “Sarangga” detracted from fully immersing in the modern deconstruction and reinterpretation offered in “Three Sarangga” as one naturally strains to detect the original in the new. Just as one eased into the novelty of “Three Sarangga,” the piece was over. The four performers on the stage, all masters in their own right, together were less brilliant than may have been expected.

More natural sharing the stage were jazz pianist John Beasley and saxophonist Bob Sheppard, their exchange of music ideas spontaneous, yet fluid. The fact that they have been playing together for years probably contributed to the ease with which they performed, their virtuosity in full display in the partnership.

Partnership does not do justice in describing the electrifying performance by the Anderson & Roe piano duo. Pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe showed the magic that can happen when two musicians perform with one soul. 

Pianists Elizabeth Joy Roe (left) and Greg Anderson of the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo perform at Alpensia Concert Hall in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (PyeongChang Winter Music Festival)

In a program that included a classical Mozart piece arranged into ragtime and the Beatle’s “Let It Be” arranged to “push” the gospel element of the pop favorite, the duo showed in fully display the explosive power of two pianos played together. Rachmaninoff’s “The Night ... the Love” from Fantaisie-Tableaux was dreamy in its evocative romanticism as the two pianists gazed into each other’s eyes across their pianos.

The highlight of the evening was the performance of Piazzolla’s “Oblivion” and “Libertango” played by four hands on one piano. In a sensually charged performance, the two pianists shared the keys, performing a sultry tango between their hands and arms. Manipulating the piano, fingers reaching into the innards of the grand piano, to produce the effect of pizzicato on the violin, the duo’s performance of the Piazzolla pieces were visually mesmerizing.

The concerts at a ski resort represent an opportunity to expand the audience base with programming to appeal to casual listeners of classical music. It helps for the performers to exude charisma that can draw in a skeptical audience. The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo achieved just that to the enthusiastic response of listeners.

This year’s PyeongChang Winter Music Festival continues through Sunday with jazz performances by pianist Beasley, Woongsan Band and MONK’estra, as well as classical performances by pianist Son, violinist Lim Ji-young, cellist Isang Enders and soprano Maggie Finnegan, among others.

For more information, visit www.gmmfs.com.

By Kim Hoo-ran