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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.

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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
Read more 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.


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.

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