On Sunday afternoon, August 27, at the home of Josef and Maria Sekon an invited audience had the pleasure of hearing an intimate recital of works by Albeniz and Granados performed by Korean pianist Yoonie Han. Ms. Han received her Bachelor’s degree from the Curtis Institute of Music studying with Eleanor Sokoloff, her Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School as a pupil of Robert McDonald, and her Doctorate at SUNY Stony Brook, studying with pianist Eduardus Halim.
She is the first prize winner of the Washington International Piano Competition, the Fulbright Concerto Competition, Kosciuszko Chopin Competition, Juilliard’s Gina Bachauer Piano Competition, Concorso Pianistico Ettore Pozzoli Internaziole, Valencia/Paterna and Recontre International Piano Competitions. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Piano at Bilkent University in Turkey and has given lectures and masterclasses at Harvard University, New York University, and the San Francisco Conservatory.
After opening her program with a silky smooth performance of the famous Tango in D Major by Albeniz in the richly detailed transcription by Leopold Godowsky, Ms. Han launched into the major work on the program, Goyescas, a suite of individual piano pieces inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya. Although the six piano pieces have not been authoritatively associated with any particular paintings, they tell the tale of tragically doomed lovers.
The opening piece, Los requiebros, which exuded exotic coquetry and elements of Spanish dance movements, came alive for us in Ms. Han’s energetic depiction of the dance and melodic elements. We observed in her performance absolute technical mastery of pianistic difficulties — the most impressive aspect of which was her amazing economy of motion. There were no flamboyant or flashy excesses, such as we observe in the playing of Yuja Wang, and there were no extraneous gestures and posturing found in the playing of Lang Lang. Ms. Han convinced us that all her concentration and technical virtuosity was there to serve the music. While she was succeeding in making everything look easy, she managed to reveal many elements of charm and keep us deeply involved in the music.
After the extroverted virtuosity of Los requiebros, the quiet beginning of Coloquio en la reja provided a welcome contrast and showed us a more intimate side to Ms. Han’s ability to bring out an inner expressiveness, which she demonstrated further in the most famous of the set known, Quejas, o La Maja y ei ruiseñor (“The Maid and the Nightingale”) and in the deeply felt El Amor y la muerte (“Love and Death”) movement.
In addition to the more poignant movements we heard Ms. Han’s fabulous rhythmic vitality in the Fandango and in the final movement Epilogo: Serenata del espectro (the “Ghost Disappears”). Ms. Han’s spinning of her special magic won over the audience and earned her a much deserved standing ovation.
Dr. Sekon is to be congratulated for bringing yet another charming and talented performer to the Aptos Keyboard Series.