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Concert Review: Yoon-Ju Oh Plays Mozart (Seoul Center Recital Hall, November 15, 2016)

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Yoon-Ju OhPianist Yoon-Ju Oh presented a fantastic performance of Mozart’s piano sonatas at the Seoul Arts Center Recital Hall on November 15, 2016. She is currently in the midst of a project to perform the entirety of Mozart’s piano sonatas, so this concert, the second in a series of four Mozart concerts, featured sonatas K. 330, 331, 332, and 333.

Oh’s approach to the opening sonata revealed playing that is well-proportioned and clear. Her rhythm was buoyant, her phrases were neatly crafted, and she inflected each measure with a splendid range of keyboard touch, movement, and color. The recital began with K. 330, known for its galant refinement and overall sense of expressive balance and warmth. In the finale, she exchanged contrasts of “solo” and “tutti” in a touch more lively a way than the allegretto marking might indicate, but was able to capture the operatic spirit fully. She conveyed contrasting elements with ease and grace.

The familiar K. 331 had lovely phrasing and a sensitive tone, with just the right amount of rubato and lilt. The grazioso element of the first movement was evident from the opening. In the spirited Turkish rondo, her rhythms were spry, and contrapuntal lines sang freely. Oh’s ability to emphasize vivid contrasts was apparent in the “sturm und drang” movement of K. 332.

Not even the fastest notes in K. 333 were thrown away. The melodies flowed naturally, proving once again that Oh is a preeminent interpreter of the style. Her playing has a certain elegance and simple beauty (rather than muscularity) that captures the style to its full effect.

There is no doubt that Mozart took singing as his starting point and from this stems the uninterrupted variety in melody, while he maintained a level of formal structure that is really second to no other composer. Oh adheres to these principles throughout her performances. After a wonderful ovation, the audience were treated with a repeat performance of the Turkish March.

Oh is currently a Professor of Music at Sungshin University in Seoul. She concertizes frequently with the Koreana Chamber Music Society, along with many other chamber groups. The rest of her Mozart concerts will be held at the Seoul Arts Center Recital Hall. If you are in the Seoul area, her concerts are a must-hear.

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About Sang Woo Kang