Celebrating the beginning of the Carmel Music Society’s “Competition Weekend,” we heard last night in Sunset Center Theatre the First Prize winner of last year’s Instrumental Competition: violinist Jae-In Shin.
It may have seemed to many in the audience a odd program since the entire first half was devoted to solo piano works performed by Miss Shin’s collaborating pianist Brooks Tran, an accomplished artist in his own right. Until fairly recently (during the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries), instrumentalists performing recitals have walked out on stage to perform from memory, trailed at a discrete distance by their humble “accompanists” toting an armful of printed scores. Today the pianist is given more equal status and performs with the piano lid raised up to its highest limit. Also, you rarely see the word “accompanist” in printed programs since the “A” word to many professional musicians has become distasteful, thus we are more likely today to see the pianist referred to a “collaborative artist,” recognizing his or her importance as an equal partner, especially in sonatas.
We are therefore recognizing that the formerly “humble accompanist” has gained a new status, the piano lid is up, and both partners use scores when performing sonatas. What was new in this recital was the featured instrumentalist sharing the limelight and yielding half of the program to her pianist. Perhaps we are witnessing a new trend in instrumental recital programs, and why not?
Opening the program, Mr. Tran chose to begin with the most often performed of the last six great sonatas by Beethoven – the Sonata in A-flat major, Op. 110. Although it was not clear whether Mr. Tran had much new to say in his performance of this sonata, it was still obvious that he has a high regard and much respect for this work. His second selection was the piano solo version of La Valse by Ravel, a work heard more often in its orchestral (and its two-piano) version. Although it is difficult to achieve for solo piano the dramatic sweeping climaxes possible by the orchestra or two piano versions, Tran gave it his best shot, which although at times was two refined, yet managed to achieve some very stirring moments.
After intermission, we had the pleasure of seeing violinist Jae-In Shin back in our presence, one year after winning the CMS Instrumental Competition First Prize. She looked lovely, as she did a year ago, and seemed to be brimming with confidence as she launched into the monologue-like introduction of Ravel’s Tzigane. We heard bold playing that achieved high levels of virtuosity and dramatic impact.
The novelty on the program was Ravel’s Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano. Shin charmed us with the startling freshness of her first movement, the lovely blues sound of the second, and the wild Perpetuum mobile third movement.
To wind up the evening, Shin and Tran treated us to barn storming performance of the Saint-Saëns “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.” No matter how many times you have heard this work, it never loses it ability to astound us with its effective writing for violin. We heard a rousing performance that inspired the audience to sustained applause, some bravos and a standing ovation.