The Young Concert Artists Series- Dasol Kim (Piano)
On Monday April 9, I had the opportunity to go to my second Young Artists Series concert at the Kennedy Centers’ Terrace Theater in Washington, D.C. The Young Artists Series is in its 57th season of promoting young musicians and composers through concert debuts and other programs. The performance I attended was the debut of pianist Dasol Kim. Kim has performed with multiple orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, and the Berlin Chamber Orchestra. He’s performed in multiple countries including Korea, Switzerland, and Germany in many festivals and concerts. He has also performed the entirety of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas multiple times in various countries.
The first piece on the program was Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2”, with the first movement much more commonly known as the “Moonlight Sonata”. The first movement was extremely delicate, with Kim making the performance of the piece seem almost effortless. The main theme was emphasized throughout, but the slow moving eight notes leant an almost hypnotic feeling to the piece. The Allegretto movement was much lighter and more playful compared to the first movement, and was full of incredible dynamic range. This range was a sharp contrast to the first movement, which had a much smaller range. The final movement (Presto Agitato) was an even greater stylistic contrast to the first two movements. It was emotional and incredibly fast. It was technically challenging, but Kim played it incredibly well and with perfect timing. This movement was full of contrasts. There was rapid accompaniment in one hand paired with a simpler and slower melody in the other, largo and staccato sections played together, as well as incredible dynamic changes. These contrasts also switched back and forth from the left to right hands, but Kim was able to balance the differences in these parts very well. The ending was played very well and was very emotional.
The second piece was Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, based on the poems of Aloysius Bertrand (1809-1849). The first movement (“Ondine”) was based on a poem about a water nymph who fell in love with a mortal man. She tries to convince him to live with her and rule her underwater kingdom. However, the man confesses that he instead loves a human woman, leaving the nymph heartbroken as she disappears back into the water. Ravel’s piece perfectly reflects the story of the nymph. It starts with a beautiful and delicate introduction. There is movement up and down the keyboard that sounds similar to flowing water. Despite the beautiful sound, chromatic notes begin to creep in, signifying the turbulent dialogue between the nymph and the man from the poem. The dynamics of this piece also roll gently from loud to soft and back again, almost like the sound of waves. The second movement (“Le Gibet”) focused on a poem describing the gallows outside of a church, with the toll of a bell in the background. The movement was much slower and more somber than the previous movement, and one note was repeated throughout to symbolize the tolling of a bell. Kim did an excellent job of emphasizing this particular note despite everything else he was playing, and the repetitiveness of this note was almost hypnotic in a way. The final movement (“Scarbo”) focuses on the tale of a mischievous dwarf who would visit people at night when they had trouble sleeping and dance to entertain them. The fast past, leaping notes reflect the revelry of the dwarf and his antics. This song is considered to be one of the most technically challenging pieces for piano ever written, and Kim was able to deliver. He seemed to effortlessly showcase the technicality of what he was doing, as well as perfectly reflecting the poem after which the piece was written.
The third piece Kim played was “Humoreske in B-Flat Major” by Robert Schumann (1810-1856). This piece is known for the different moods each movement portrays. The movements switch from quiet and delicate to playful to quick with a focus on the off beats. Some scholars suggest that these quick switches in moods between movements of the piece are reflective of Schumann’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder later in life. Kim was able to perfectly balance a focus on technical aspects of the songs with conveying each mood, flitting back and fourth between joyous and melancholy themes between movements and in the movements themselves.
The final selection was two of eight concert etudes written by Ukranian composer Nikolai Kapustin(1937). These etudes were influenced by many different genres, from the romantic era to jazz. Kim chose to play the “Intermezzo: Allegretto” and the “Finale: Prestissimo”. The Intermezzo sounded like it was heavily influenced by jazz, with an energetic motion driving towards the finish. This etude focused heavily on the use of chromaticism, and chromatic notes began to present themselves more and more as the etude progressed. Kim made sure to draw in attention to these notes, especially in one section that became a bit quieter and more delicate. After a brief pause at the end of this piece, Kim launched into the Finale. Although the previous movement was energetic, this particular movement took the energy to another level. Kim tackled this technical challenge, taking great detail with timing, dynamics, and accents. The piece never let up on energy until the very end, with a somewhat abrupt ending that brought the crowd to its feet.
Kim played an encore following this piece and chose to play “Widmung”, originally written for voice and piano, but arranged by Franz Liszt for solo piano. The original “Widmung” was composed by Schumann as part of a song cycle written for his wife Clara as a wedding gift. Overall, the piece is flowing and delicate, almost in the style of a lullaby, though there are a few faster and more passionate sections. This piece is extremely romantic, both in style and content. It features many hallmarks of the romantic era of music, but also contains the “Clara motif.” In Schumann’s works dedicated to his wife, he would add a five note motif that represented the spelling of her name, and this piece is no exception. The version of “Widmung that Kim played was arranged by another famous composer- Franz Liszt. This particular arrangement removes the vocal part, but adds in a moving piano line to substitute for it, as well as Liszt’s signature style of embellishments. The audience seemed to favor this piece and rose to give a much deserved standing ovation when he was finished.
This was a fantastic concert, full of some very technically challenging piano repertoire. Despite this, Kim was able to play it in a way that seemed as though it were effortless, and it was an absolute delight to listen to.