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Schumann: Fantasiestucke, Op. 12; Humoreske, Op. 20; Drei Fantasiestucke, Op. 111 / Kang

Schumann / Kang
Release Date: 02/12/2013 
Label:  Meridian Records   Catalog #: 84600   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Robert Schumann
Performer:  Sung-Suk Kang
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCHUMANN Fantasiestücke, Op. 12. Humoreske, Op. 20. Drei Fantasiestücke, Op. 111 Sung-Suk Kang (pn) MERIDIAN 84600 (65:51)

Korean pianist Song-Suk Kang studied in Singapore before travelling to the U.K. to study at the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester) under the respected teacher Derrick Wyndham (who also taught Hough and Donohoe). Read more Later she studied with Badura-Skoda in Vienna, and was later to become his assistant.

Kang’s reading of Fantasiestücke begins hyper-delicately with a “Des Abends” that emerges as perfectly crepuscular. It is her “Aufschwung” that reveals that the piano recording is not as wide-ranging as one might hope. Yet her playing is superb, her mastery of texture beyond doubt. If she does not quite have the animalistic abandon of Argerich (EMI, live from the Concertgebouw), Kang’s slightly softened version nevertheless enchants the ear. Her textural mastery is most impressive; her tenderness, too, is most affecting (in “Warum?”). If “Grillen” loses its way a little, her spooky “In der Nacht” is perfectly judged, Kang’s nimble fingers creating laudably shadowy gestures (this movement is quoted in one of op. 111, featured later in Kang’s recital). Her way with “Fabel” is good, too, in the way in which she differentiates the characters of the various gestures. The strengths of “Traumes Wirren” are many. There is an almost Bachian way in which she can clearly delineate different lines; complementing this is the charm of her clean articulation. The Schwung way with the opening of “Ende vom Lied” holds a measure of authority that indicates clearly that we are at the culmination of the cycle. Spread chords are expertly managed. In all, this is a memorable account of op. 12.

The half-hour Humoreske is a major challenge for any pianist, both interpretatively and technically. Kang does a fine job, her opening properly semplice . Her fluent fingers make the trickier passages sound easy. More, they sound properly Schumannesque and there are no slowings down for technical reasons to hinder the wondrous flow. However, it is the more ruminative sections, the true pianissimos that make this reading special. Kang does not displace Radu Lupu (Decca) in my affections, but she is an excellent supplement. More, her intelligently shaped performance eclipses Piotr Anderszewski’s Virgin Classics performance as she is the less likely of the two to lose sight of the music’s long-term trajectory.

There is tremendous strength to Kang’s tumultuous way with the first of op. 111 ( Sehr rasch ); balancing this is her sweet tone in the enigmatic Ziemlich langsam central panel. The final movement, marked Kräftig und sehr markiert , traverses a number of emotions during its brief duration. Kang is particularly effective in the reflective passages. In short, Kang makes as persuasive a case as is possible for late Schumann. Her playing throughout, in fact, is delectable. Recommended.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Phantasiestücke (8) for Piano, Op. 12 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Sung-Suk Kang (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; Germany 
Phantasiestücke (3) for Piano, Op. 111 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Sung-Suk Kang (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Humoreske for Piano in B flat major, Op. 20 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  Sung-Suk Kang (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1838; Germany 

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