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Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin / ChangYong Shin

Release Date: 07/05/2019
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30115
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven ,  Franz Liszt ,  Frédéric Chopin Performer:  ChangYong Shin Number of Discs: 1

Passionate, inspired performances and brilliant technique are the hallmark of pianist ChangYong Shin. He brings those qualities to meditative yet virtuosic works by Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin.

Album Credits:

Recorded January 22-23, 2019 at Steinway Hall, New York City.
Producer: Jon Feidner
Engineer: Lauren Sclafani
Assistant Engineer: Melody Nieun Hwang
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Mixing and Mastering: Daniel Shores

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner and Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Piano Technician: Lauren Sclafani
Piano: Steinway Model D # 597590
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Changyong Shin’s 2018 solo debut CD on the Steinway & Sons label featured a performance of Beethoven’s Op. 101 sonata that revealed this young pianist’s affinity for the composer’s linear aesthetic, if not necessarily the combative emotional subtext behind the notes. One can say the same vis-à-vis Shin’s reading of Beethoven’s Op. 109, the opening salvo on his second Steinway release.

Shin conveys the first movement’s improvisatory qualities well. His Prestissimo is contrapuntally aware and mostly clear, but without the litheness and dynamism one hears from Annie Fischer, Freddy Kempf, Igor Levit, and Stewart Goodyear. Although Shin’s phrasing of the opening theme of the third-movement variations suggests little of the music’s implicit calm and repose, piano mavens will notice his careful voice leading—and does Shin employ the una corda pedal on the repeats? Variation 2’s broken rhythms come off uniformly genial rather than tension inducing, while Variation 3 is too sedate and studio-bound for such helter-skelter music. Shin clarifies Variation 5’s difficult counterpoint with the utmost technical ease and sophistication. If his long chains of trills in Variation 6 don’t reach Claudio Arrau’s ecstatic heights, Shin compensates by way of a stronger-than-usual left hand presence.

Of Shin’s three Chopin Waltzes, his superbly characterized and pianistically poised Op. 42 stands out. By contrast. Op. 18 contains a good number of fussy and ultimately ineffective expressive gestures, while Op. 34 No. 1 is melody-oriented at the expense of strong rhythmic backbone. However, Shin completely connects with Liszt’s Bénédiction, unquestionably this disc’s high point. He unifies Liszt’s potentially sprawling opus with a fluid basic tempo for the outer sections that still manages to suggest spaciousness, while shaping the melodic line and undulating double-note accompanying patterns in gorgeously three-dimensional perspective. What is more, Shin’s use of rubato enhances transitions and moments of felicitous harmonic interest. The Bénédiction is vulnerable to its interpreters, and can sound deadly and interminable in the wrong hands, but emphatically not here. Shin should record more Liszt.

-- Jed Distler,

Korean pianist Changyong Shin, partly trained in the U.S., has been much talked about. He has a lot of pure pianistic charisma with a kind of impetuous quality, which surely commended him, despite his youth, to the talent scouts of the Steinway & Sons label. He's not afraid to offer original interpretations. Most pianists wait until later in their careers to take on Beethoven's late piano sonatas, but not Shin, who has already recorded a couple of them. The Piano Sonata No. 30 in E major, Op. 109, usually closes out a program, but here Shin plays it right at the start, as if to emphasize its proto-Romantic qualities. Certainly it is a profoundly virtuosic piece, and you get the feeling that Liszt, who played his share of late Beethoven and who is also represented on the program by the Bénédiction de Dieu dans le solitude, would have enjoyed Shin's reading, even if the deep architecture of the finale gets lost at times here. Sample the opening movement, which has an almost improvisatory feeling unlike almost any other recording of the work (Artur Schnabel may come to mind). The Chopin waltzes that close the show are also irregular in rhythm and demand your attention even if you might wish for a few conventionally lyrical passages. Beautifully recorded at Steinway Hall, this release, once again, serves notice that Shin is a young pianist to watch, and to hear.

Having been honored with several awards over the past three years along with his first Steinway & Sons release in 2018, ChangYong Shin is now developing an individualized poetic flair. Like a sun cresting the horizon for the first time, his awakening to Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin adds immeasurable excitement with frequent bouts of unexpected musical diplomacy.

Those who haven’t previously encountered the talents of this man will find the opening of Beethoven’s Sonata n° 30an excellent venue for discovery. While the first two movements outline in severe contrasts, the closing “Gesangvoll, mit innigster Empfindung” is the dominant weight and a mini-showcase unto itself. Beethoven’s breakdown of sensations and contrapuntal measures are carefully apportioned and given adroit clairvoyance.

Save it to the end when the young pianist dares to take off on his own flight into Frédéric Chopin’s waltzes. At times the outpouring argues an atypical landscaping that’s both stultifying and stunning. The “Grande valse brillante” typifies the pianist’s notion of frivolity and musical wanderlust: grace notes grandly punctuate with emphatic purpose while pauses and tempos are executed in some of the most uncharacteristic places. The same can also be said inside the airy “Valse brillante”, but that’s what makes the listen even more interesting and unusual. ChangYong Shin isn’t shy about the way he desires to respect the prodigious composer. The freshness of freedom is best exemplified in the closing “Grande valse”...spectacular positioning, crowned by an unusually delectable coup.

M. Shin’s show stopper is undoubtedly the Bénédiction with all of its Lisztian glory and celestial verve. One cannot escape inhaling M. Shin’s exhilaration of this selection from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. While meditative solemnity is shown with straightforward, unfiltered puritanical formation in the second section, it’s the ensuing compartment that M. Shin models forward with vibrant emotion and profundity. Here’s where he stakes claim with his own vision of worldly solitude. It’s hard resisting a continuous return to this depiction, for ChangYong Shin has wondrous clarity of this śuvre.

ChangYong Shin has set his own musical compass, choosing to handle Beethoven, Liszt and Chopin with a fresh spirit.

-- Christie Grimstad,

Young Korean Pianist ChangYong Shin has won several important awards including the 2018 Gina Bachauer International Artist Piano Competition. I found this pianist reticent at first. His Beethoven Sonata in E Major, Op.109 is technically secure throughout, but more colour and expression would have been welcome for Beethoven’s quasi-improvisational mode. There are great heights and depths in this work that may require risk-taking. Nevertheless, Shin handles the finale’s fugal section and the theme’s return with extended trills particularly well.

For me Franz Liszt’s Bénédiction du Dieu dans la solitude from the cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, (1847) conveys a genuinely religious sense in the way the piece unfolds. Shin is flawless with the opening’s rustling background and the rich ventures into the bass register, and also in the subsequent dramatic harmony and varied figuration. He confidently paces the balance of the work well, including in the closing section where it is mainly rolled chords that support the pensive upper line. By the end, peace and calm have stilled the emotions of earlier sections.

Of the disc’s three Chopin waltzes I particularly enjoyed Op.42, informally known as the 2/4 “waltz” because of the melody’s cross rhythm against the triple-time bass. Shin is high-spirited here, pedalling lightly, creating a whirl with accents and rubato, and achieving a bravura ending. The brilliant Waltz in E-flat Major, Op.18 and Waltz in A-flat Major, Op.34, No.1 add to the lustre of a splendid CD.

-- Roger Knox, The Whole Note Read less