I SEEM to remember in the past commenting on the intelligence of the playing of South Korean pianist Sinae Lee (it might have been in relation to Liszt's B minor Sonata). Certainly yesterday her recital at the RCS was informed at every level by intellegence: of planning, of structuring and of playing.
The idea of putting together a programme compounded of "First Steps", as she termed it – the first piano sonatas by Brahms, Alban Berg (his only piano sonata) and Henri Dutilleux - looked good on paper and worked well as a coherent recital programme.
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Lee demonstrated multiple strengths in the Brahms, which can sound overlong, ungainly and even a bit ramshackle in the wrong hands.
She brought a commanding sense of structure and purpose to her performance, along with a potent mix of strength, power, poetry and sensitivity.
From time to time she seemed to drive it a bit, with a fearsome brightness close to a glare, through that might have been the merciless acoustic of the RCS's Guinness Room.
Alban Berg's Piano Sonata opus 1 worked less well, in my view. Lee's vision of the music came over as though the piece is a big-boned, late-Romantic miniature epic, with huge and thickly textured climaxes.
I see it more as an essentially inward piece, and I certainly didn't hear as much of the counterpoint and the complex motivic work as I would have liked.
The Dutilleux Sonata was a fun piece with its rolling rhythms and tolling bells, not quite knowing at points whether it wanted to be Bartok or Messiaen when it found its own voice.
A good start to the term.