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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Sonata in A minor, D.784 (1823) [19:48]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Gaspard de la nuit (1908) [21:56]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Sonata in C minor, Op. 111 (1822) [26:16]
Jeung-Beum Sohn (piano)
rec. 2019, Brüssel-Saal, Eurogress Aachen, Germany
GENUIN GEN20688 [68:02]

The young Korean pianist Jeung-Beum Sohn has made a strong impression at several prestigious competitions, including the celebrated Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia. He was also the first prize winner at the International German Piano Award in Frankfurt and the Munich International Music Competition in 2017. Linked with the latter, was the opportunity to record this debut disc.

Sohn has chosen an ambitious and musically imaginative programme rather than a particular focus on one composer. The highlight is a marvellous performance of Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, a work notorious for its demands not only on a player’s technique but also on the depth of his imagination. The three movements of the suite each have a distinctive character which links to the priorities of technique at the keyboard. Thus, Ondine is a water piece, with a limpid principal theme which Ravel described as ‘a tender and sad voice’. The fluency of Sohn’s phrasing certainly captures this special mood and character, as does his daringly slow tempo and controlled restraint of dynamic shading in Le gibet, a tone poem which conjures the macabre image of a corpse hanging from the gallows at night. The performance reflects this image, as the bell ‘tolls remorselessly, regardless of all other concerns’.

The there is Scarbo, the music of the wily dwarf. Now is the opportunity to display piano technique and heights of daring, in what is, in that sense, one of the summits of the piano literature. Sohn combines clarity of articulation with daringly fast rhythms in true virtuoso fashion; the performance is a tour de force, no less.

Schubert composed his three-movement Sonata in C minor in 1823, not long after he had written the famous Unfinished Symphony, proof if any were needed that he was at the height of his powers at that time. The sonata is not to be confused with the larger work in that key (D.958) that dates from the last year of Schubert’s life, but it remains a masterpiece, full of subtleties, with a strong control of classical procedures. The opening movement at tempo Allegro sets the scale and rather dominates the piece, being as long as the other two movements combined - and Sohn sees it that way, articulating the music with his close control of the structure and its obsessive rhythmic tendencies.

Beethoven’s final piano sonata, the C minor Op.111, is a veritable summit of the keyboard literature, and this is a work which gives a pianist the opportunity to command intensity of vision as well as display a sure technique. For a debut recital recording, this is a daring choice therefore, but it was one well made. While the inevitable cavil about experience might be raised, there is no question that this young Korean pianist reveals himself to be a major talent with a bright future.

Terry Barfoot

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