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BILL NEWMAN listens to Yoo Na Noh


The Keyboard Charitable Trust for Young Professional Performers is in the process of being shunted around the premises of Steinway Hall, 44, Marylebone Lane, London, Wl whilst necessary renovation is underway.

Thankfully, this does not effect standards of performance, despite honking taxi cabs, police sirens and articulated lorries depositing their wares and loading up for further consignments. I am really staggered by the high concentrative levels possessed by young performers. Music continues to enter their systems through sensitive brain cells operating body movements, finger pressure, articulation and so on, whatever the contingencies!

Yoo Na Noh. Photo: Bill Newman

Yoo Na Noh is tiny, pert, totally confident with her abilities to come to grips with music of all kinds whatever the technical difficulties, interpretive insight, choice of tempi.

Clementi, I remember from my late school days with the occasional rap over the knuckles from an irate teacher when the notation became blurred. The Piano Sonata Op 25 No 5 with its specific if flowery markings -- Piuttosto allegro con espressione, Lento e patetico, Presto -- contains a fair number of performer traps for the unwary, but Noh, at 21 years, already has that knowledge of style, expressive touch and continuity of line evenly matched within a controlled temperament. It soon became obvious that more pleasant surprises were in store.

I have never understood the Horowitz approach to Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Op 22 -- so ridiculously fast it defies analysis, even though the fingers work their own brand of magic. Rubinstein is preferable, although his sheer masculinity sometimes tires the ear later on. Noh performs the piece at a persuasively moderate tempo. Where the rippling arpeggios suggest gossamer threads in the first episode, the grandness of the Polonaise is not just a tonal display of keyboard splendour; it requires that subtle emphasis on leading notes of the phrase followed by the slightest of vibratos before presenting each strand of material that makes up the whole. Follow the pattern through to the coda and you discover that the closing pages should be built up architecturally, not, as many pianists prefer, to engage in flurries of frenetic excitement. This particular performance was admirable in every respect.

The Russian Sofia Gubaidulina is probably the rightful person to succeed the late Alfred Schnittke as her country's leading composer. Musical Toys certainly doesn't demand the kind of cerebral contemplation from a listening standpoint compared with other works. The episodes suggest delightful childhood visions: Mechanical Accordion, Magic Roundabout, The Trumpeter in the Forest, The Magic Smith, April Day, Song of the Fisherman, The Little Tit, A Bear playing the Double Bass and The Black Woman, The Woodpecker, The Elk Clearing, Sleigh with Little Bells, The Echo, The Drummer, Forest Musicians. A far cry from Edvard Grieg's legato lines and spritely repetition, each offers individual slants of exacting likeness for their subject matter with a feeling of true progression as one ventures forth on a journey of happiness and remembrance.

Poulenc's Thème Varié belongs to his most important keyboard output, a tour de force of exploratory passage work, vivid and loving contrasts with many changes of key and metre. A splendid conclusion to a fine recital, then, except for two encores -- one a pictorial piece by Englishman Frank Bridge which has become a firm favourite with our young, gifted artist.

Favourite teacher Noretta Conci, looked on and listened with radiant expression.

Copyright © 3 May 2002 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK




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