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Hyunsoon Whang continues performance cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas

Cameron University professor Hyunsoon Whang will present “Beethoven Sonata Cycle 4,” the fourth in a series of piano recitals in which she performs select Beethoven sonatas. The recital is set for on Thursday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the McCutcheon Recital Hall, where Whang will perform on a new Steinway piano that was a gift to the university from donors Matt Gaskins and Don Gaskins.

Seating is extremely limited; to reserve a ticket, call 580-581-2346. 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.

In September 2019, Whang 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 will open this recital with Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13, “Pathétique.” Written in 1798 when Beethoven was 27 years old, it has become one of his most celebrated compositions. It was a great success for Beethoven, selling well and helping create his reputation as a composter. The sonata consists of three movements: Grave (slowly with solemnity) – Allegro di molto e con brio (very quickly, with vigor); Adagio cantabile (slowly, in a singing style); and Rondo: Allegro (quickly). All three movements were featured in the 1969 animated film “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.”

“Op. 13. ‘Pathetique’ certainly is one of the most well-known piano sonatas by Beethoven along with –‘Moonlight’ and ‘Appassionata,’” says Whang. “It is the first one of his sonatas that starts with a slow introduction which is much slower (Grave, not Adagio) and much longer than one expects. The first movement is truly revolutionary with its highly theatrical pathos – painful suffering and breathless edginess. The second movement is heavenly with reverent feeling, and the last movement is more pianistic than symphonic in nature unlike the first movement.”

Whang will then present Sonata No. 25 in G Major, Op 79. Alternatively titled “Cuckoo” or “Sonatina,” this sonata is notable for its shortness. Composed it in 1809, it consists of three movements: Presto alla tedesca (fast and in the style of a German waltz); Andante (moderately slow); and Vivace (in a brisk spirited manner).

“Op. 79 is an unusually short, delightful sonata,” Whang says. “No tragedy or heartbreaks here. It's almost like Beethoven is saying that ‘I too can write music that is light and pleasant, devoid of pain and anger.’"

To conclude the recital, Whang has selected Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101, composed during Beethoven's "Late Period," when his music moved in a new direction toward a more personal, intimate, sometimes even introspective, realm of freedom and fantasy. Beethoven himself described this sonata, composed in the town of Baden in 1816, as "a series of impressions and reveries." The intimate nature of the late sonatas can be connected to Beethoven’s deafness, which isolated him from society so completely that his only means of communicating was via notebooks.

This piano sonata consists of four movements: Etwas lebhaft, und mit der innigsten Empfindung (somewhat lively and with innermost sensibility), Allegretto, ma non troppo: Lebhaft, marschmäßig (lively, march-like), Vivace alla Marcia; Langsam und sehnsuchtsvoll (slow and longingly), Adagio, ma non troppo, con affetto; and Geschwind, doch nicht zu sehr, und mit Entschlossenheit (swiftly, but not overly, and with determination), Allegro.

“Op. 101 is the second of the last six sonatas from his ‘Late Period,’” Whang says. “By now, Beethoven was completely deaf and had stopped performing. It seems that he was exploring the unknown realm of musical sound. Op. 101 is, in my opinion, the most personal and abstract sonata. It goes from being poetic to grotesque, humorous to angry, sublime to defiant. The finale contains a huge fugal section as Beethoven was obsessed with fugue throughout his life.”

Whang chose these particular sonatas for a reason. “I wanted to play a chronological program around the ‘Pathétique’ and Op. 101, so there is one sonata from each period: early, middle and late,” she explains. “Op. 13 is an emotionally intense work which will be followed by a lighter, less imposing Op. 79. I think both the audience and I will need this sort of ‘break’ before we venture into the extremely demanding Op. 101, both intellectually and pianistically.”

Korean American pianist Hyunsoon Whang is an active performer and a dedicated teacher. She has delighted audiences in hundreds of concerts across North 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." Highlights of her last season included Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto video-recorded live with the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra and recording the late works of Brahms with her longtime collaborator Daniel McKelway, which will be released this spring. Whang will continue her survey of Beethoven’s complete piano sonata cycle and is scheduled to perform with Norwood Symphony Orchestra in South Australia in June 2022. Whang serves on the Touring Artists Roster of the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Mid-America Arts Alliance’s Artist Roster.

A passionate educator, Whang has taught and nurtured generations of students. Her students have won numerous state and national competitions, and garnered scholarships and fellowships from prestigious institutions. She presents interactive recitals for public school children every year fostering the love of music for young people. She has been invited back to teach at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan this summer. She is a recipient of the Oklahoma Governor’s Arts in Education Award.

Whang studied at the North Carolina School of the Arts, the St. Louis Conservatory, The Juilliard School, and earned a doctorate from Indiana University under the tutelage of legendary pianist György Sebők. She is Professor of Piano at Cameron where she holds the McMahon Endowed Chair in Music.


PR# 22-017

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