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Whang and Robinson team to present Russian sonatas on Cameron stage

Hyunson Robinson Photo

When Cameron University professor Hyunsoon Whang sits onstage at her piano Thursday, Feb. 4, she won’t be alone. Joining Whang will be special guest Keith Robinson on cello as they present “An Evening of Russian Music for Cello and Piano” featuring the works of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.

Cameron University Lectures and Concerts Series will sponsor the 7:30 p.m. performance in the University Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens/military/K-12 students, while admission is free to CU students, faculty and staff with university ID.

Whang, who has largely focused her live performances on compositions by Beethoven for the past few years, will collaborate with Robinson turning the focus to Russian composers this time.

“Choosing these specific sonatas was a democratic process,” Whang said. “The Rachmaninoff cello sonata has always been on my bucket list. It is an epic work with a challenging piano part that I’ve always wanted to learn. When I mentioned it to Keith, he immediately said, ‘Then we should do an all-Russian program along with the Shostakovich Sonata.’”

“To play any concert during this pandemic is special, but the Rachmaninoff sonata is a real treat for the cellist, and an extreme workout for the pianist,” Robinson noted. “If you are lucky enough to find a pianist who is willing to learn all of those notes, it's like getting in a self-driving car and being taken to a lot of wonderful places.”

Composer Sergei Rachmaninoff was a virtuoso pianist and conductor of the late Romantic period. His early efforts were influenced by Tchaikovsky and other Russian composers, but gave way to a personal style notable for its expressiveness and rich orchestral colors. He regarded the role of the piano as not just accompaniment, but equal to the cello. Themes are introduced by the piano, then embellished and expanded in the cello's part. His “Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 19,” is typical of sonatas of the period, with four movements: Lento – Allegro moderato, Allegro scherzando, Andante and Allegro mosso.

Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the 20th century’s major composers. His work features a unique harmonic language, and holds historic importance because of its creation during the regime of Josef Stalin. The “Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor, Op. 40,” was an early work, composed just prior to a censure of his music by authorities. It was a period of emotional turmoil in his personal life, as he had fallen in love with a young student and briefly divorced his wife. During that separation, he wrote the cello sonata within a few weeks. It consists of four movements: Allegro non troppo, Allegro, Largo and Allegro.

“Shostakovich is my favorite 20th century composer,” Robinson said, “His music is direct and heartfelt and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate it. At a time when many composers were writing music for other composers, Shostakovich wrote music for the many audiences that came to appreciate his musical voice. This early work from 1934 is classically proportioned, sonorous and lyrical.”

Robinson and Whang first performed together as high school students at the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1980 and have collaborated many times. “I think these pieces complement each other,” Whang said. “I look forward to performing them with a dear friend.”

An internationally acclaimed, award winning cellist, Robinson is a founding member of the Miami String Quartet. He has been active as a chamber musician, recitalist, and soloist since his graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music, touring extensively around the world. In 1989, he was named the P.A.C.E. Classical Artist of the Year. As a member of the Miami String Quartet, he was won global recognition at such prestigious events as the Evian, Fischoff Chamber Music, and London String Quartet competitions.

A member of the CU faculty since 1993, Whang is a nationally renowned pianist who has performed hundreds of concerts across the U.S., Canada, Germany, Switzerland, France, Japan and her native Korea. She released her first solo album, “Chopin Nocturnes,” in 2019. She is a recipient of the Oklahoma Governor’s Art and Education Award and holds the Louise D. McMahon Endowed Chair in Music at Cameron University.

Seating for the Whang-Robinson performance is limited due to COVID precautions. More information is available at (580) 581-2346.

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