The young pianist Jeeyoon Kim played a solo recital Sunday (December 11) in the Auditorium of La Jolla’s TSRI. With the exception of an early, three-movement Beethoven Sonata (Op. 10, No. 2), all of her selections were shorter, single-movement pieces—standard repertory choices from Franz Schubert to Claude Debussy.
A product of the prestigious Jacob School of Music at Indiana University, Kim displayed a confident, well-developed technique that served her well in demanding scores such as Debussy’s “L’isle joyeuse” and “Jardins sous la pluie.” Her gentle opening selections, Robert Schumann’s “In the Evening” and Frederic Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp Minor, Op. 64, No. 2, revealed warm, beautifully shaped melodies dappled with sensitive rubato. But in Chopin’s familiar “Fantasie-Impromptu,” that refinement dissolved into aggressive attacks and a hard-edged tone in the more extroverted passages. Her concluding Presto in the Beethoven Sonata was similarly compromised by equally clangorous fortes.
It is possible, of course, that Kim did not realize how intimate the Auditorium’s acoustics are and how close the audience is to the performer and her instrument. Performing in the TSRI Auditorium is much like giving a recital in a large living room, as opposed to performing on a stage in, say, a 2,000-seat concert hall. Suffice it to say, I found the discrepancy between Kim’s deft soft passage-work and her abrasive fortes disturbing.
Kim chose attractive and varied colors for her agile “Pagodes” from Debussy’s Estampes, and she made the most of the sharply contrasting moods of Robert Schumann’s “Arabeske.” I don’t know anyone who is not partial to Schubert’s heart-tugging Impromptu in G-flat Major from his Opus 90, but it seamed redundant after hearing Johannes Brahms’ A Major Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2, just moments earlier in the recital.
Overall, Kim’s recital lacked scope and challenge. In her verbal introduction to the Beethoven Sonata, she came close to apologizing for making her audience endure a serious sonata in the middle of her buffet of pretty pieces. In truth, her program needed more extended and probing works if she wants to be taken as a serious concert pianist.