SCHUBERT & LISZT: Piano Music
Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert
MIN KWON, piano
2009 Grammy Award: Producer of the Year - David Frost
“[Min Kwon] has a fine grasp of Schubert's challenging Sonata...She is in command of a wide dynamic range throughout the Sonata, with some lovely details in the slow movement and nice pastel effects in the finale. She shapes phrases simply and directly, and her tone is sufficiently varied...this is a worthy addition to the catalog...Kwon gives a masterly performance of the Don Juan, never slighting the drama during all the technical display. Her playing kept me on the edge of my seat, and admiring how the slender young pianist managed to get such a big, non-percussive sound. This is the highlight of the disc, but Gnomenreigen and Gretchen am Spinnrade are also impressively controlled and tonally varied. I hope it is not too long before Kwon returns to the recording studio, in Liszt, Schubert, or whatever she chooses."
Charles Timbrell, Fanfare - January / February 2008
“Kwon views dynamics, pedaling, and color in a unique way. [In Schubert's Con moto] Ms. Kwon finds herself and reveals the full beauty of the music. All flows naturally, with phrasing so gentle and lovely the notes breathe with just the right motion. The concluding rondo is a model of refined delicacy that works well. [Gretchen am spinnrade] is performed most beautifully. Gnomenreigen finds Ms. Kwon fully in spirit with the music and holding little back as the gnomes dance in all their devilry. For the Don she shows a willingness to play at full thrust to emphasize our hero's braggadocio. Like the Don, she can boast of a full conquest-this time of the music's temperament and technical demands."
American Record Guide - November / December 2008
“...clearly a virtuoso."
BBC Music Magazine - November 2008
“...she brings out the melody of Schubert's song, surrounded by Liszt's figurations, beautifully and phrases intelligently."
Turok's Choice - Issue No.204, November 2008
"Min Kwon, Korean-American pianist who studied at both the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, is much in demand these days as both recitalist and teacher. This new MSR release, the pianist’s solo debut on record, immediately shows us why. Her suppleness of finger, elegant phrasing and expert use of the rhythmic flexibility known in music as rubato, all serve to raise this Schubert/Liszt recital well above the ordinary.
That last-named attribute of her playing is very important in Schubert’s Sonata in D Major, D850, a work I’d previously under-rated because I’d heard too many foursquare, eight-to-the-bar performances of it. This one gets it right. Other critics have praised Min’s readings for being elegant and well-proportioned. Without denying any of that, I’d like to focus on her fire and conviction. She sets the strong rhythmic basis right from the start in the opening Allegro, as well as the harmonically adventuresome quality that is a hallmark of Schubert. The slow movement, marked Con moto (with movement) has more animation than we might expect, beautifully contrasted with the brooding main theme.
By the same token, the playful scherzo, marked Allegro vivace, has an unexpectedly serious trio. The jaunty march that forms the basis of the final Rondo poses interpretive challenges for the pianists that are even more formidable than the technical ones. Min Kwon’s answer to them makes the finale a pure delight. At 38 minutes, this sonata may seem overlong for the material, but with a performance like this, who cares?
The Liszt portion of the program begins with the composer’s transcription of Schubert’s song “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel,” in which Goethe’s heroine poured out her tale of grief: “My peace is gone, my heart is heavy.” As Min shows us, the trick here is to work the magic of key and tempo changes against a steady whirring accompaniment (which is what spinning wheels do) to build up the emotion to a climax, then a sudden stop as Gretchen remembers the ecstasy of Faust’s kiss.
“Gnomenreigen” (Dance of the Gnomes) is an impish delight, a tricky bit of legerdemain in which we can almost see the little creatures at their sport. The recital concludes with Liszt’s incredible Don Juan Fantasy, which develops three themes from Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a way that serves as a capsule of the opera’s color and excitement. Throughout the Fantasy, Min shows the brilliant passagework, the expressiveness of Liszt’s sonorous chords, and the dazzling sweep of one of his most striking solo works."
Atlanta Audio Society - May 2008
The New York Times
The Daily Telegraph
"performances of unruffled clarity, finesse, and elegant proportions"
New York Concert Review
PROGRAM NOTESKorean-American pianist Min Kwon’s activities as a performer and teacher have taken her to all 50 states in the USA and to 45 countries on five continents. She has appeared at festivals of Aspen, Ravinia, Cape & Islands, Caramoor, Colmar (France), Freiburg, Salzburg, Kuhmo (Finland), and Prague. As a soloist, she has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, North Carolina, Atlanta, New Jersey, Delaware, and Fort Worth symphonies, Aspen Festival Orchestra, Juilliard Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, among many others. She has also toured extensively with the Orquesta Estaudo de Mexico, Orquesta Sinfornica Venezuela, and with all of the major orchestras in Korea, including the Seoul Philharmonic, Korean Symphony, KBS Orchestra, Puchon and Daejun Philharmonic Orchestras. She has collaborated with such conductors as James Conlon, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, John Giordano, Alan Gilbert, and Vaktang Giordania, and as a chamber musician, with principal players of the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Min Kwon has also given more than 200 joint recitals under the auspices of CAMI and IMG Artists with violinist Yoon Kwon. During the 2000-2002 seasons, Min Kwon was also the principal keyboardist of Chicago Civic Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim, appearing in many orchestral and chamber performances at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall. Recent season highlights include a critically-acclaimed solo recital at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and London’s Steinway Hall, and concerto appearances with the Bacau Philharmonic in Italy, New York Sinfonietta in New York, and performances in Finland, Norway, Estonia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Grand Prize winner of KBS Seoul Emerging Artists Award, Kwon was also the winner of Juilliard’s coveted Gina Bachauer International Award and has captured more than a dozen top prizes at competitions in the US, Spain, Italy, and Scotland. In demand as a teacher and adjudicator, Kwon has taught in summers at Kuhmo International Chamber Music Festival in Finland, International Keyboard Institute in Korea, Vladimir Feltzman Piano Summer in New York, and Ameropa International Chamber Music Festival in Prague. She has also been a guest faculty at London’s Royal College of Music and Singapore’s National University, and regularly adjudicates numerous competitions. She has taught piano and chamber music at The Juilliard School, and since 2002 has been on the piano faculty of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Ms. Kwon earned her Bachelor of Music from the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of nineteen, MM and DMA from The Juilliard School, and has also pursued post-doctoral studies in Salzburg.