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Hyunsoon Whang continues performance cycle featuring Beethoven’s piano sonatas

Cameron University professor Hyunsoon Whang will present “Beethoven Sonata Cycle 3,” the third in a series of piano recitals in which she performs select Beethoven sonatas. The recital will take place on Thursday, October 14, at 7:30 p.m. in the University Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults, and $8 for senior citizens, K-12 students and members of the military. Cameron students, faculty and staff are admitted at no charge with valid ID. To reserve a seat, call 580-581-2346. Facial coverings are strongly encouraged.

Whang has set the goal of performing the entire cycle of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas, which are considered one of the most important collections of works in the history of music, over the next few years. She began the cycle in September 2019 and has performed six sonatas to date.

She will open this recital with Sonata No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 10 No. 1. Like the other sonatas in Op. 10, this composition was dedicated to Countess Anne Margarete von Browne, the wife of one of Beethoven’s patrons. It was written between 1796 and 1798.

“This sonata is from Beethoven’s early period, full of youthful energy and urgency,” Whang says. “It is compact yet contains plenty of drama and contrasts. The outer movements are jagged and unsettled, on purpose of course, and the middle movement Adagio molto is heavenly.”

Whang will then present Sonata No. 15 in D Major, Op 28, “Pastorale.” The work is generally admired for its intricate technicality as well as for its beauty. Published in 1801, it was dedicated to Count Joseph von Sonnenfels, a jurist, novelist and president of the Academy of Sciences.

“This sonata from the middle period is one of my favorite Beethoven sonatas,” Whang says. “The ‘Pastorale’ was not a subtitle given by Beethoven himself, but one can definitely hear and feel the nature’s typology throughout. It is expansive, lyrical, tender, and symphonic in nature. Beethoven truly loved nature from which he found inspiration and solace throughout his life. This sonata reminds me of the Pastorale Symphony which he would compose seven years later. It is a beautiful piece. Even when music becomes intense and loud, there is never true anger or evil present in this sonata.”

Whang has selected “Les Adieux” Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, to conclude the recital. Beethoven was prompted to compose this piece following Archduke Rudolf’s abandonment of Vienna in May 1809 due to the threat of war and his subsequent return in late January 1810. It is considered one of Beethoven’s most challenging sonatas due to the mature emotions that must be conveyed throughout as well as the technical difficulties involved. The composition is the bridge between Beethoven’s middle period and his later period.

“Of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, this is the only truly ‘programmatic’ sonata in the sense that Beethoven gave its subtitle ‘Das Lebewohl’ (farewell) for the first movement followed by ‘Abwesenheit’ and ‘Wiedersehen’ (absence and return) for the subsequent movements,” Whang explains. “His other piano sonatas such as Moonlight, Appassionata, Tempest, etc., were subtitled by various people after his death.”

When selecting which sonatas to perform in one recital, Whang strives for a well-balance program that she enjoys practicing and playing and that the audience will enjoy.

“I wanted to build a program around the Sonata No. 15,” she says. “The C Minor Sonata is a great opener with its dark, intense quality, then the euphoric D Major, the Pastorale, which is more like a symphony than a piano sonata, then finally the well-known, satisfying Sonata Op. 81a to end the program.”

After beginning her piano studies at the age of 4, Whang started playing public concerts at age 12. Since then, she has delighted audiences in hundreds of concerts across America, Europe and Asia. Critics have praised her as "the kind of player who appears to immerse her entire being in the music," and as one who has "always delivered with grace and beauty."

Whang has appeared as a soloist with distinguished conductors such as Leonard Slatkin, Nicholas Harsanyi, Joel Revzen, Miriam Burns and Jon Kalbfleisch. A sought-after chamber musician, she frequently collaborates with members of premiere orchestras and string quartets. She recently released a solo album, “Chopin Nocturnes,” and a chamber music album, “Mozart, Schubert and Brahms.” A recipient of the Oklahoma Governor’s Arts and Education Award, Whang serves on the artist roster of the Oklahoma Arts Council and Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Whang attended Seoul High School of Music and Arts, North Carolina School of the Arts, the St. Louis Conservatory of Music, The Juilliard School, and Indiana University, where she earned a doctorate.

In 1993, she joined the Cameron University faculty, where she is the McMahon Endowed Chair in Music as well as a professor of music. She teaches piano, accompanying and music appreciation.


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