Changyong Shin’s Second Steinway & Sons Solo Recital

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

Changyong Shin’s 2018 solo debut CD on the Steinway & Sons label featured a performance of Beethoven’s Op. 101 sonata that revealed this young pianist’s affinity for the composer’s linear aesthetic, if not necessarily the combative emotional subtext behind the notes. One can say the same vis-à-vis Shin’s reading of Beethoven’s Op. 109, the opening salvo on his second Steinway release.

Shin conveys the first movement’s improvisatory qualities well. His Prestissimo is contrapuntally aware and mostly clear, but without the litheness and dynamism one hears from Annie Fischer, Freddy Kempf, Igor Levit, and Stewart Goodyear. Although Shin’s phrasing of the opening theme of the third-movement variations suggests little of the music’s implicit calm and repose, piano mavens will notice his careful voice leading—and does Shin employ the una corda pedal on the repeats? Variation 2’s broken rhythms come off uniformly genial rather than tension inducing, while Variation 3 is too sedate and studio-bound for such helter-skelter music. Shin clarifies Variation 5’s difficult counterpoint with the utmost technical ease and sophistication. If his long chains of trills in Variation 6 don’t reach Claudio Arrau’s ecstatic heights, Shin compensates by way of a stronger-than-usual left hand presence.

Of Shin’s three Chopin Waltzes, his superbly characterized and pianistically poised Op. 42 stands out. By contrast. Op. 18 contains a good number of fussy and ultimately ineffective expressive gestures, while Op. 34 No. 1 is melody-oriented at the expense of strong rhythmic backbone. However, Shin completely connects with Liszt’s Bénédiction, unquestionably this disc’s high point. He unifies Liszt’s potentially sprawling opus with a fluid basic tempo for the outer sections that still manages to suggest spaciousness, while shaping the melodic line and undulating double-note accompanying patterns in gorgeously three-dimensional perspective. What is more, Shin’s use of rubato enhances transitions and moments of felicitous harmonic interest. The Bénédiction is vulnerable to its interpreters, and can sound deadly and interminable in the wrong hands, but emphatically not here. Shin should record more Liszt.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Beethoven Op. 109: Annie Fischer (Warner), Chopin Waltzes: Rubinstein (RCA), Liszt Bénédiction: Arrau (Philips)

  • Changyong Shin (piano)

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