Music from the Great Hall
Recorded on September 21, 2020
Younggun Kim, piano
15 Improvisations pour piano Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)
No. 7 in C Major (1933)
No. 15 in C minor (Homage à Edith Piaf, 1959)
Chaconne in D minor Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
arr. Ferruccio Busoni (ca 1897) from Bach’s Partita no. 2 for solo violin (BWV 1004)
Iberia, Book 2 (1907) Isaac Albéniz (1860–1909)
Nocturne in B major, op. 62, no. 1 (1846) Fryderyk Chopin (1810–1849)
Libertango (1974) Ástor Piazzolla (1921–1992)
(arr. Younggun Kim)
Pianist Younggun Kim has appeared across North America and Europe and is known for his blazing technical capacity and a lush sound supported by a natural sense of phrasing (Timothy Gilligan, New York Concert Review).
Performances in 2020 were to include solo appearance with the Georgian Bay Symphony as well as solo and chamber concert engagements in Seoul, Vancouver, and Toronto. During the covid–19 crisis he has been focusing on online concerts and broadcasts. Younggun Kim recently joined the Faculty of Music at his alma mater, the University of Toronto, and he is also a sought-after adjudicator.
Prizes include the San Antonio International Competition, the Francis Poulenc Concours International de Piano, and the Doctor of Musical Arts Recital Competition at the University of Toronto. He has received awards or scholarships from the Canada Council for the Arts, the University of Toronto, the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, the Glenn Gould School, the Canadian Music Competition, the Shean Competition, the Alice and Armen Matheson Graduate Scholarship, the Anne Burrows Foundation, and the Winspear Fund.
Since 2011 Younggun Kim has been closely involved with the Health Arts Society, an organization that provides classical music concerts for audiences who are not able to travel to concert halls.
A Toronto-based Canadian citizen from South Korea, Younggun Kim holds an undergraduate degree at the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Marietta Orlov, and a Master’s degree at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, studying with Boris Slutsky. Upon completion of a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Toronto, studying with Marietta Orlov, he received the Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award.
Francis Poulenc (1899 – 1963) wrote his Fifteen Improvisations for Piano over a period of about 27 years, from 1932 to 1959. They are short, melodic, and display an unmistakably aesthetic French spirit which Poulenc took careful pains to promote in his work. A very fine pianist in his own right, Poulenc’s idiomatic writing for the keyboard is supple and graceful. His Improvisation Number 7 has a calm, pastoral air, while Improvisation Number 15 (Homage à Édith Piaf) aims to capture some of the bittersweet charm of the ballads of heartbreak and loss, expressed so simply and so poignantly by that great French chanteuse.
By 1720, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1720) had completed his 6 Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo. It is not known why, or for whom they were written, but a fanciful theory suggests that they were intended as an homage to his first wife, Maria Barbara, who died unexpectedly in July 1720. Although they have now become the cornerstone of the solo violin repertoire, they were not published until 1802, and rarely played until the great German violinist Joseph Joachim took them into his repertoire.
These works are formidably challenging, but the most technically challenging of all is the final movement of the Second Partita in D minor, the Chaconne. A chaconne is a work based on a short, repeated harmonic progression which the composer uses as a template over which to write variations displaying decorative and figurative melodic invention.
This Chaconne represents one of the peaks of Bach’s compositional output and has inspired at least two hundred transcriptions for various instruments and ensembles. Numerous composers have tried their hand at piano transcriptions of this work, including Brahms (for left hand), and the transcription featured in this performance, by the outstanding Italian pianist and composer, Ferruccio Busoni.
Isaac Albéniz (1860 – 1909) composed Iberia between 1905 and 1909. It is considered his crowning achievement and is one of the most challenging works in the solo piano repertoire. Although Albéniz rarely quoted popular Spanish music directly, his music is unmistakably inspired by the tunes of his homeland, containing many examples of modal writing, exotic scales, and Spanish dance rhythms. Iberia has been, from its inception, phenomenally successful, and has inspired a host of transcriptions and orchestrations. It is said that when Ravel, a brilliant orchestrator, was asked to orchestrate Iberia, he went one step further, and was inspired to compose his hugely successful Bolero.
Rondeña, from Book II of Iberia, is a variant of the fandango, featuring alternating bars in 3/4 and 6/8 rhythm. It is named after a town, Ronda, in Andalusia a sometime summer home to both Ernest Hemingway and Orson Wells!
Tirana, also from Book II, a flamenco-influenced rondo, is named after a neighbourhood of Seville, well known as having a vibrant flamenco culture, and traditionally home to a large Romani (‘Gypsy’) population.
Fryderyk Chopin (1810 – 1849) published eighteen Nocturnes in his lifetime, leaving three more Nocturnes to be published posthumously. This Nocturne Opus 62 #1 first appeared in 1846. An admirer of the lyrical bel canto operatic style, Chopin had himself a great melodic gift which is much in evidence in this work. The Nocturne is in a simple three-part structure, opening with a lovely B major melody. After an equally lyrical middle section in A-flat major, the opening B major theme returns, and Chopin embellishes it with elaborate figuratura passagework. The effect is of an effortless quasi improvisation. In fact, Chopin was known as an inspired improvisor at the keyboard, but when it came to his published works, he was a meticulous craftsman. This beautiful piece, which sounds so effortless, was, as were all of Chopin’s compositions, meticulously worked out by the composer!
Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992) is recognised as the pre-eminent composer of the tango in our time. What is less well known, is that Piazzolla was a highly disciplined student of composition whose teachers included Alberto Ginastera and Nadia Boulanger. The story goes that Boulanger, after she heard Piazzola play for her a tango that he had composed, congratulated him warmly, and urged him to pursue his career in tango, where his heart clearly belonged.
Piazzolla published Libertango in 1974. Libertango is a portmanteau merging the Spanish word, Libertad, with Tango. It is meant to symbolize Piazzolla’s stylistic development of Classic Tango to a new genre - Nuevo Tango. Piazzolla reimagined the Tango, by using contrapuntal techniques, and by bringing in alternate harmonic and melodic arrangements to conventional Tango style. The piece has since been much in demand in all forms of adaptation and arrangement.
Today’s arrangement is by our pianist, Younggun Kim. It is extremely effectively scored for the keyboard, and played magnificently by our artist!
With thanks to:
Barbara Wright George