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Beethoven’s sonatas, rhythmic and full of energy
The Korean pianist HieYon Choi played in Sengwarden at the Musical Summer in Ostfriesland.
Sengwarden – it is almost a matter of course for great pianists, to occupy themselves with entire piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven. His 32 piano sonatas represent an entire life-tableau and fill up at least 10 piano solo recitals. One of them has taken place now as a part of the “Musikalischen Sommers in Ostfriesland” in the St. Georgs Church in Sengwarden. The South Korean pianist HieYon Choi interprets the cycle of all sonatas at the summer music festival spread over the individual years. This year’s penultimate evening, brilliantly performed, contains four sonatas, two from the composer’s early creative period, a shorter one from his middle period and his great final C minor sonata.
Diverse sound register
Pianist Hie Yon Choi plays a Beethoven based on strong contrasts. Distinctive accents and different sound registers of the concert grand characterize the sound. The energy with which the artist goes to work is immediately apparent in the early C minor Sonata, Op. 10 No. 1. The rhythmic conciseness of the first theme with the widely spaced tonal leaps and the rhythmic disruption come into their own. The semiquavers move like floating butterflies in the cantabile second movement, which the pianist creates with wonderful timbres.
The prestissimo of the finale in its development already points to the drama and the themes of the last piano sonata op. 111. In this, HieYon Choi unfolds an impressive world of sound in which the composer’s defiance of the disturbingly described fate becomes all too clear. The polyphonic entanglements of the wild and impetuous first movement reflect this vividly.
The pianist plays the tender Arietta from Beethoven’s last sonata movement rather “semplice” and less expressively. In the variations that follow, however, she unfolds this theme with increasing intensity. With the concise rhythmic dotting and the consistently sustained syncopation, the theme of the Arietta undergoes a transformation that increases in the trills and cascades of sound to the point of transcendence, before at the end the composer’s “reunion” sounds several times as a farewell call in the characteristic downward dotted fourth. The audience’s prolonged silence was the best applause for this deeply moving performance.
By Christoph Keller [Nordwest Zeitung] 10.11.2022
By Janghyun Ryu [Arte News] Sep-01-2022
By Jaehyun Cho [News-1] Sep-01-2022
In this recital, the pianist HieYon Choi presents herself on the stage just as she is – steadily devoting herself to music. HieYon Choi, who interprets each work deeply and unleashes it with overwhelming expressive power, will perform etudes by Unsuk Chin, Debussy, Chopin, and Liszt, Beethoven’s ‘Anger’ Rondo and Piano Sonata No. 32 in c minor on this stage. Choi interprets and expresses musical ideas hidden amongst the dizzying techniques in the etudes of various composers that cover all piano techniques and yet not missing any detailed musical expressions. We pay attention to Choi’s overwhelming music….
By Johann Kang, [IREVIEW] Aug-03-2022
“I told to my acquaintance about the concert a night before, “the specialty of well-seasoned main chef at the top restaurant”. His eyes sparkled as if he understood. In fact, my words failed to express highest praise……
Appeared in steps, neither heavy nor light and bowed like flapping of wings, HieYon Choi was right away absorbed in the first sonata, in f minor, Op. 2-1. Different from usual concert venue, this place, the main venue of The House Concert offered greater resonance coming from the vibration of the wooden floor. HieYon Choi serenely delivered a lot of inner stories through outstanding phrasing. The unique Beethoven-aesthetic stood out even under the balance and restraint and the powerful dynamic run especially in the final movement made the audience rise above themselves….
…. Already 60 minute-journey was done without break and yet the final piece was “Appassionata”. She was not tired even when she reached its final movement passing through the passionate first movement which took the breath of the audience and the second movement of the thick lyrics. The performer closed the sonata and thus the New Year’s concert of The House Concert with absolute overwhelming coda. And she gave us all in the same space the energy, courage and expectation to live the year 2022 vigorously.
Then I finally understood the intention of this artist to complete a grand epic poem by omitting the intermission and I could not agree more. It will need quite a long time till the echo of this concert would diminish.”
By Jin-Suk Kim, pianist [Music Journal] Feb- 2022
By Sung-Ah Shin [New Daily] Nov-05-2021
By Soo-Hyun Oh [Daily Economics] Nov-03-2021
By Joo-Hee Song [Seoul Economy] Nov-03-2021
By Hyun-Woo Oh [Hankyung] Nov-04-2021
By Jong-Sung Yoon [E Daily] Nov-03-2021
By Jae-Hoon Lee [Newsis] Oct-19-2021
By So-Hee Kim [E Today] Nov-07-2021
By Hee-Sun Kim [Music Journal] Nov-2021
After the break, the audience’s eyes became increasingly clear on the musician at the piano. As the evening progressed, less and less light shone into the church, the interior became darker and the artist moved more and more into focus through the spotlights. It was the sounds of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano sonatas that rippled through the Holtrop church on Friday evening. The pianist HieYon Choi from South Korea played four Beethoven sonatas as part of the “Musikalischen Sommers in Ostfriesland” in an almost sold-out church. Audience and the organizers were enthusiastic. “That’s among the absolute best in the world”, said organizer Iwan Koenig during the concert break. The audience agreed too. “It’s fireworks,” said one, ”This finger skill is just amazing”, said the other…..
By Jan Michael Heimann [Ostfriesischen Nachrichten] Juli-15-2019
“The Korean Pianist Hie-Yon Choi won awards for her Beethoven Sonata Cycle in her home country. No wonder, she studied with Klaus Hellwig in Berlin, with Hans Leygraf in Salzburg and with György Sebök in Indiana. Thus she, so to speak, grew up with the classic and romantic repertoires. Now she presents here a recording with four better known Sonatas by Beethoven. And already from the beginning of Op. 31 No. 3 you realize: Choi is more than just at home with the linguistic ductus of this music. She understands this music, reconstruct it and by doing so she can form lots of details to a big entirety. – the biggest challenge for Sonatas. She can subtly untangle Beethoven’s linear work, the deliberate confusion in elaboration of theme for the listener, fill them with life, let them become comprehensible. At the same time her way of playing is connected with magnificent sense of sound, never exaggerate the tempos, (marvelous pacing in Op. 90, the 2nd mvt.!) the dynamic, even the hard accents and eruptions sound mellifluous, without losing their meanings. In op. 81a she traces the pain of statement so convincingly that one could understand the emotions which is transformed in this music. And also, the Op. 109 which is hardly leading to comprehensible flow, she succeeds excellent! What a shame that this CD is released only at Decca Korea.”
By Carsten Dürrer [PIANO NEWS] Vol.03/2019
New Album of Pianist HieYon Choi | Performed on ‘Boesendorfer’ born in 1828…Deep and Elegant Sound | Contrast to Brilliant Tone Color of ‘Steinway’
“A Beethoven recording which you’d want to keep next to you for long time; an album of Beethoven Sonata No. 18, 26, 27, 30, performed by HieYon Choi (Professor Seoul National University), released by Decca label. A selection of calm and intimate character. A flowing and elegant connections, architecture of an intelligence and without any vanity; it feels like an intimate talk with a thoughtful friend. The abundant acoustic which makes one feel listening to it in a proper-sized living room adds to a perfection of this recording….”
By Yoon-Jong Yoo [DONG-A DAILY] Jan-18-2019
By YoonSuk Na [Seoul Economist] Jan-8-2019
By Suh-Hyun Hur [Monthly Pianoforte] Jan-2019
By JiYeon Kuk [Monthly Auditorium] Jan-2019
By SooJung Lim [YeonHap Daily] Dec-21-2018
By DeungYong Jung [AJU Economist] Oct-18-2017
By JiHyun In [Munwha Daily] 18-Sep-2017
By Jae-Hoon Lee [Newsis] 14-Sep-2017
The Korean pianist Hie-Yon Choi continued her piano sonata cycle in the Musikalischen Sommer festival. Her appearance was the „Hammer“ (‘awesome’ in German slang) – in the true sense of the word itself.
By Karen Hochmuth [Ostfriesische Nachrichten], Juli-16-2017
By Soo-Jung Lim [Yeonhap News] May-13-2017
“…The pianist faced (the work) with the technical & interpretational capacities which seemed to be almost limitless. Yet her playing remained totally concentrated and sure even in the rapid moving passages: the waterfall-like passages, the meditative moods, the pearly runs, the refined nuances, the associations. All these were well thought out and directed to captivate the moments….”
By Ina Wagner [Emder Zeitung] July-11-2016
“…..The star of the evening was the Korean pianist Hie-Yon Choi……
…Through whole sonatas the thread pulled the extreme dynamics and very strong accents where the audience could not breath and the intensity never let go. It was a wanted challenge for all, especially Hie-Yon Choi, whom you could only pay the highest respect and appreciation for the extraordinary physical as well as mental capacity. (she performed all five sonatas by heart) Indeed the audience did so with standing ovation, excitement, bravo-calls and requests after two beautiful encores…”
By Birgit Brodisch [Anzeige für Harlingerland] Aug-10-2015
“… Eyes closed; you would believe that the honorable composer himself would have sat at the piano. Hie-Yon Choi is passionate in dealing with the interpretation of these sonatas – so passionate that you would have to be afraid for the instrument. With extraordinary power and speed this Korean governs the score – and yet succeeds to let it fulfilled with compassion, intimacy and pure joy. She performs with energetic touch and fiercely uses all what is possible on this instrument. And everything appears so easy with her wonderful technique which looks totally natural; however, this is not possible without high level of experience and training….
What a shame that she does not give any more recital at this “Sommer”. One could read it in the oppressed mimic in the audience that they missed another concert of her. Because Hie-Yon Choi is an extraordinary artist with the same extraordinary capacity in her solemn and reserved way.”
By Ina Wagner [Emder Zeitung] Aug-13-2015
“… As a few dramatic accords of the roaring fortissimo thunder in the church, the whole concentration of audience was focused on the artist and the music. It was especially the violent dynamic outbreak up to the limit of the playable, the energy which was carried to the audience and the performance in supple balance with vigorous contrasts of Hie-Yon Choi, which gave the audience a once-only experience.
…. Grandiose. The “Vivacissimamente”, a tempo demanded by the composer Beethoven in the E flat Major Sonata op. 81a directed the musical happiness, racing, to the climax. Could not be any faster. Could not be any better either.”
By Roland Moll [Ostfriesischer Kurier] Aug-13-2015
[Medical World News] Jun-22-2015
By Jae-Hoon Lee [Joong-Ang Daily] Mar-04-2014
[General Anzeiger] Juli-18-2013
By Jang-Jik Lee [Monthly Auditorium] March 2013
Hie-Yon Choi, SNU professor, Soovin Kim, Young Song, Beethoven Trio Concert at Kumho Art Hall
By Bora Kim [Korea Economist] Oct-3-2012
Beethoven, My Love & My Hatred, Launching Beethoven Piano Trio Cycle
By SungHyun Kim [Chosun Daily] Oct-4-2012
[Cover Story] HieYon Choi on the stage of Classic Star Series at IBK Chamber Opening Festival -Beautiful Life, Beautiful Music, HieYon Choi
By Ji-Youn Kook [The Piano] Nov-2011
It’s Hie-Yon Choi’s third return to the Musikalischer Sommer
“She appears worldwide as a concert pianist and at the same time she is a professor at Seoul National University -For Hie-Yon Choi it is the simple consequence out of one thing above all: the love of music. “Music is my life”, she says and she means it seriously……”
By Laura Bode [Emder Zeitung] July-21-2010
“…Schubert’s “3 Stücke für Klavier D946”……It is truly not an easy task to find the clear lines at all times under the chaos, the mirror-reflection of feelings, in this composition. Hie-Yon Choi proves herself absolutely washing away any concern of this huge challenge. Especially remarkable was her capacity in the second piece „E flat Major- Allegretto“…”
By Werner Jürgens [Ostfriesischer Nachrichten] July-20-2010
“…Hie-Yon Choi played „ 3 Stücke für Klavier D946“ and gave a soul to three musical treasures with emotional participation & intimacy. The audience of course could sense this special connection – thus there was a very long & enthusiastic applause for the interpretation of the special class.”
By Ina Wagner [Emder Zeitung] July-20-2010
“..With outstanding quality the Korean pianist Hie-Yon Choi presented Beethoven‘s genius piano sonata No. 23, known as „Appassionata“, the passionate. Passionately, right with excessive power & sensitive empathy the artist fascinated the audience. Full-chords in the conflict zone from fortissimo & piano, prominent through the outstanding agogics, the loud passage accelerated, slowing down quietly in contrast, the interpretation was in a very high level. Eruptive drama in struggle & soft, romantic state became musical highlight.”
By Roland Moll [Ostfriesischer Kurier] July-19-2010
“Her playing was breathtakingly virtuoso but also looking into the inner world, formal in control but also free in shaping. Never she approached naively swaggering the variations on B-A-C-H & on the Basso Continuo of the choral cantata „Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen. Zagen“ (BWV12) which were originated from roaring pipe-organ. She savored in total pleasure the enormous rise to the peaks which shines in the sunlight, then leads to outshining Choral-Cantus-Firmus „Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan“. Hie-Yon Choi built however a solid bridge between all these steep walls & gorges, settled the valleys & plateaus. Right there between the mounted-up blocks the almost cracking inner intensity grew. Here took her unnoticeable capacity effect, connecting controlled tempo-freedom with strict tempo, to play out the lyricism broadly, letting the lines meshing each other. Only very few sound-ball were made thick with the organ-like pedaling & let the profile disappear. When it was proper, as like in the Bach-Choralprelude „Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme“ as an encore, she savored cautious romanticizing.”
By Horst Hollmann [Nordwest Zeitung] July-27-2009
Pianist Hie-Yon Choi enthralled on Friday in Remels
“With frenetic applause, bravo-calls & excited trample the 250 concert-visitors on Friday in St.-Martins-Kirche in Remels thanked the Korean pianist Hie-Yon Choi for her magnificent capacity… One should treat the superlative forms very meticulous & cautiously, however in this case you may attest the world-class capacity. Already from the beginning of the concert she made the audience attentive with the „Variations on B.A.C.H“ & fascinated them with sparkling performance of full power & beautiful dynamic contrast. The magical, almost elegiac parts were contrasted with the thundering fortissimo in orchestral sense which seemed to quake the church walls. Hie-Yon Choi convinced through the highest virtuosity in the best sense & thus complied fully & totally the Liszt‘s image & gave with her boldness a glamour of a unique improvisation to the piece….”
By Roland Moll [Ostfriesen-Zeitung] July-27-2009
“…The musician filled her performance … with such emotional depth & inner movements that there was endless ecstasy. And when she gave as an encore Bach’s „Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme“ , the universe seemed literally to lie at the feet of the elegant pianist.”
By Ina Wagner [Emder Zeitung] July-27-2009
Outstanding Concert by Northern Sinfonia and HieYon Choi, Supported by service of Volunteers
“…fantastic performance filled with harmonization and consideration of both Thomas Zehetmair, conductor of Northern Sinfonia and HieYon Choi, the artist-in-residence…the natural communication between two was like flowing water and absorbed the audience, even their breathing sounds…”
By KyungChan Hong [Seoul Culture Today] Apr-02-2009
By SungHyun Kim [Chosun Daily] Feb-11-2009
Pianist Hie-Yon Choi played the famous Bach-Variations at the Max-Reger-Tagen in Weiden.
„…her strong suit lies no doubt in the virtuose passages which she mastered with impressive technique powerful and leap-sure, but also with insight for the inner thematic structure. She kept overview also in the nine-minute-long double fugue where she took time over and over for filigree and clean-playing for contrapuntal figures, dynamically refined shadowing, before she towered the pathos with thick final chords using the last energy reserves. Long lasting applause from enthralled audience.
By Andrea Proelss [Der neue Tag] Oberpfalz, Aug-15-2007
Hie-Yon Choi, radiating her refined flash
“…The Highlight of the concert was the Schumann Piano Quintet Op. 44 where Pianist Hie-Yon Choi attuned with the Quartet embroidering with her clean and refined tone. The transparent-colorful sound of the piano and the delicate-elegant sound of the quartet were splendidly harmonized and produced gorgeous music. Hie-Yon Choi played the leading role in empowering the quintet with the spirit of grandeur….. An impressive encounter of both pianist and the quartet which would be remembered for long…”
By WanGyu Chung [Monthly International Piano Korea] April-2007
[Concert Preview] A Pianist of Talent, Fantasy and Guts, now on Korea-tour
“Many would right away recall Beethoven with the name ‚HieYon Choi’…”
By TaeHyung Ryu [Weekly Donga] Apr-11-2006
By SooKyung Kim [Dong-A Daily] Sep-12-2002
Adamant rhythm with intensity, explosive and passionate touch
“…being away from the secular interests, concentrated in music, Hie-Yon possesses rigorous craftsmanship to offer a stage of the highest quality… Her pure approach towards music is the strongest power to win over the audience… Her approach to Beethoven is quite reckless…”
By Sang-Woo Han [Monthly Joy Classic] May-2002
“Last January, when HieYon Choi appeared with Bach-only in her debut recital, the audience at the Kumho Gallery was full of curiosity ‘how good’ she was. People wanted to confirm the performance of the new youngest piano faculty at Seoul National University who drew whole attention from us and HieYon Choi presented impeccable Bach which compassed whole program in a big unity. Afterwards she continued impressing us through concerts at Tong-Yeong International Festival, with Pucheon and Changwon Philharmonic. Positive reviews raised more curiosities and the menu of her second recital on the 6th of November was Schubert and Chopin. Was it for Schubert? The stage was strangely dark. There was hardly a difference regard lighting between the audience and the stage. Listening Schubert in a dark hall, in almost pessimistic mood was quite new experience in Korea, where the radiant light for stage and pitch-dark audience is usual setting……”
By Bin-Ah Koo [Monthly Auditorium] Dec-2000
Extraordinary capacity and freshness came up to our expectation
The Korean “Clara Haskil”, HieYon Choi held the breath of the audience with her sincere attitude towards music and threw them into the sea of lyricism and romanticism with her delicate touch. Our true hope is that the new star like HieYon Choi remain fresh, unchanged and continue to surprise us.
By Jae-Eun Kim [Monthly Pianoforte] Dec-2000
“…Her sovereign performance reached the climax in Chopin Etudes. Expressing characters of each 12 etudes were sovereign but also the unique rhythmic sense in No. 3, the scherzo nuance in No. 5 and the delicious expression of No. 9 were a display of her maturity in technique. Her dramatic drive through the last three numbers and her enthusiasm with extraordinary energy overwhelmed the whole audience…
…..HieYon Choi’s debut is another hopeful incident and confirmation for Korean music scene and culture that the essence of classic music and the performance in high quality always move audience.”
By Sang-Woo Han [Monthly Eumak Chunchu] Dec-2000
[Dong-A Daily] Sep-21-2000
By Jae-Jun Ryu [Korea Times] Jan-2000
It is rare to experience a performance which makes us realize the fact that the dynamics and the colors are the keys for the musical structure. This performance was a harmony of clear interpretation and mature technique. I was confirmed that the ‘musical sensation’ is only possible on this premise.
By Uzong Choe [Monthly Eumak Chunchu] Feb-2000
Choi proved herself to be an accomplished pianist with a sensitive rhythmic sense, with power in her chordal work, with mastery of runs and trills and such, and with an understanding of Beethoven’s musical style. She did not simply get through the brilliant cadenza that the composer had written for himself in the opening Allegro con brio: she gave it a personality reflective of her own emotional reaction to the music.
By Peter Jacobi [Herald Times] Bloomington, Nov-21-1997
“..The realization of Mozart A Major Concerto KV 488 by Hie-Yon Choi: a high-spirited, full of sentiment, eloquent up to every detail and precisely formulated interpretation, in the sovereign and at the same time reserved manner (as if perceived the spirituality of young Clara Haskil itself), besides without any perfectionistic attitude…”
By Hans-Klaus Jungenheinrich [Frankfurter Rundschau] Sep-3-1997
Hie-Yon Choi was full of freshness and spontaneity who incidentally drew us to the spirit of Clara Haskil, who gave so much of the youthfulness and the depth into her playing.
By Aime Corbaz [Le Matin] Sep-1-1997
Matinee in Rhein-Ruhr-Zentrum with well-known piano music out of 2 centuries
“…With charm and deep meaning Hie-Yon Choi interpreted also the Beethoven Sonata Op. 101 in A Major. The mysterious and unreal Adagio movement – ” slowly and with longing” written by Beethoven – was most of all convincing. Jovial and exuberantly presented the Korean also the fast final movement….The climax was Skriabin’s 5th Sonata. Hie-Yon Choi entered into another world as she created a magical tone color on the piano.”
[Neue Rheinische Zeitung] Oct-15-1996
Piano Recital by Hie-Yon Choi at Bourglinster Castle
“…After the break was the monumental b-minor Sonata by Liszt. Hie-Yon Choi broached dramatic peaks and unleashed impetuous storms with her superb phrasing and unfailing technique….”
Norry Goedert [Luxemburger Wort] Oct-24-1996
“…It was overwhelming how this Korean held the audience under her spell with her maturity and diversity of interpretation. Hie-Yon Choi possesses faultless technique, sparking ease and fascinating virtuosity….”
By Daniela Goebel [Darmstädter Echo] Jan-30-1995
“…Hie-Yon Choi, the south Korean, possessed a temperament of fire. As if the rouge of her dress set fire on her fingers, we were at the present of fiery interpretation, full of power and character, which entirely seduced the audience…”
By M.-H.C. [Liberte de l’est] Epinal, Mar-29-1993
The $5,000 third prize was won by Hie-Yon Choi, a 24-year-old Korean. The decision, greeted by cries of “No!” “Shame!” and “Terrible!” by a near-capacity audience in the Concert Hall….
…In some ways, Choi, who opened the evening with a fluent, precise and graceful performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, gave the evening’s most impressive — or its least unsatisfying — performance. She did not reach all the music’s depths, but a major artist can work for a whole lifetime without managing that.
By Joseph McLellan [The Washington Post] July-20-1992
“…A brisk reading of Beethoven’s B-Flat Sonata, Op. 22, and Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit” showed Choi capable of flexible, supple playing. She had lovely rich tone, with some beautiful shading….”
By Kate Rivers [The Washington Post] July-18-1992
“…Hie-Yon Choi, as a soloist, proved herself to be a virtuoso in the Liszt’s Piano Concerto E Flat Major, without having let her technique end in itself. Her somewhat harsh touch decorated itself through the precision in the ornamental figures….”
By Clemens Birnbaum [Berliner Zeitung] Nov-28-1991
“…She showed the high level of empathy in the Beethoven Sonata D-Major op. 10-3, especially in the Largo movement, which was carried by the deepest resignation, and the good technical capacity in the final movement, which seemed partly somewhat motoric.”
By R. L. [Berliner Morgenpost] Dec-17-1986