In September 2019, Cameron University’s Dr. Hyunsoon Whang set the goal of performing all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas. To date, she has performed 12 of the compositions, which are considered one of the most important collections of works in the history of music. She will edge three sonatas closer to her goal on Thursday, November 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the McCutcheon Recital Hall.
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.
For this concert, Whang has selected three sonatas composed between 1801 and 1802.
“The triptych of Op. 31 No. 1, 2 and 3 from Beethoven's middle period is a perfect group of sonatas to hear/perform together as it represents Beethoven's versatility within a set,” she says. “This is the last ‘set’ under the same opus number that he published together. After Op. 31, all the later piano sonatas have individual opus numbers.”
Whang will open this recital with Sonata No. 16 in G Major, Op. 31 No. 1, described as light and breezy, with touches of humor and irony. It is presented in three movements: Allegro vivace (fast, quickly and bright), Allegro grazioso (fairly fast and lively, graciously) and Rondo: Allegro (quickly).
“Op. 31 No. 1 is a humorous work in general,” Whang explains. “The first movement is witty with two hands seemingly not being able to play together. The second movement perhaps mimics Italian opera, and the finale is sunny and warm. No deep pain or anguish in this sonata.”
She will next perform Sonata No. 17 in D Minor, Op. 31 No. 2, often referred to as “Tempest.” The name comes from a reference to a personal conversation between Beethoven and his associate Anton Schindler. According to a later report by Schindler, when he asked the composer about interpreting this sonata as well as Op. 57, The Appassionata sonata, Beethoven suggested that he should read Shakespeare's “The Tempest.” The sonata consists of three movements: Largo – Allegro (slowly, then briskly), Adagio (in a slow tempo) and Allegretto (light, graceful and moderately fast in tempo).
“This work has all the characteristics of Beethoven's music that we usually expect, such as the depth, drama, intensity and pathos,” Whang says. “The first movement is rhetorical, fiery and mysterious. The contemplative, lonely slow movement is out of this world, and the finale is personal and wistful as it is carpeted in perpetual motion.”
To conclude the recital, Whang has selected Sonata No. 18 in E-flat Major, Op. 31 No. 3. A third party gave the piece the nickname "The Hunt" due to one of its themes' resemblance to a horn call. The sonata consists of four movements: Allegro (fast, quick and bright), Scherzo. Allegretto vivace (moderately fast and lively), Menuetto. Moderato e grazioso (at a moderate speed with grace and style), and Presto con fuoco (quickly, impetuously).
“This is a joyful sonata,” she says. “It is cast in four movements which is unusual for his middle period piano sonatas. It also does not have a slow movement. He is pretty much in a jovial mood throughout the entire sonata - also highly unusual for Beethoven!”
Whang, a Korean American pianist, is an active performer and a dedicated teacher who has delighted audiences in hundreds of concerts across North America, Europe, Asia, Iceland and Australia. 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 a performance of the complete Brahms sonatas with violinist David Kim and the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Norwood Symphony Orchestra in South Australia. During the 2022-23 season, she will perform an all-Mozart program in Germany and appear as a guest artist to perform the first Tchaikovsky Concerto with the Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra. 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 spends summers teaching at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. She is a recipient of the Oklahoma Governor’s Arts in Education Award and a member of Cameron University’s Faculty Hall of Fame.
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 the legendary pianist György Sebők. She is Professor of Piano at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma where she holds the McMahon Endowed Chair in Music. She lives in Medicine Park and enjoys being a virtual mom to her daughter Courtney, a student at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine; spoiling her Pit bull rescue Callie; practicing yoga; and following Major League Baseball.