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Mozart Recital / Su Yeon Kim

Release Date: 07/07/2023
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30211
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ,  Franz Liszt Performer:  Su Yeon Kim Number of Discs: 1

The Korean pianist Su Yeon Kim achieved international acclaim when she won the first prize at the Concours musical international de Montréal 2021 and the second prize at the International Mozart Competition 2020 in Salzburg. For her debut album on the Steinway & Sons label Kim displays her passion and gift for performing the music of Mozart with some of his most beloved piano works as well as a few rarities.

“Mozart’s music is full of life and power, encompassing the full spectrum of human emotions and transcending all eras and cultural boundaries. Compiling this album brought me waves of joy, and the feeling of personal connection to Mozart's spirit.”
-- Su Yeon Kim

Album Credits:
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Mozart Recital / Su Yeon Kim was recorded October 12-13, 2022 at Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, Virginia.
Producer: Dan Merceruio
Engineer: Joshua Frey
Mixing and Mastering: Daniel Shores

Executive Producers: Eric Feidner, Jon Feidner, Vivian Chiu
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Artist Liaison: Rosalie Burrell
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Piano Technician: John Veitch
Piano: Steinway Model D #607799 (New York)


It will be very, very interesting if Su Yeon Kim, who is still in her twenties and thus of an age similar to Mozart’s when he wrote much of his piano music, produces a Mozart sonata cycle of her own. Kim’s recording for Steinway & Sons of two of the sonatas – Nos. 9 and 12 – is so light, well-balanced and insightful that it bodes very well indeed for a possible set of all 18 sonatas. Whether or not that is in the future, having these two available now is wonderful. Kim brings exuberance and a generally light touch to both these works – using a modern piano, yes, but holding back on the large and reverberant sound of which the instrument is capable. As a result, the sonatas attain a level of understated beauty that mingles well with their perfection of form, of which Kim is clearly quite cognizant. Kim neatly brings forth the distinguishing elements of Sonatas Nos. 9 and 12, such as the syncopation in the Andante con espressione of No. 9 and the ornamentation in the Adagio of No. 12. But she never overdoes individual elements of these works: her focus in on them as totalities of self-contained expressiveness, and she manages Mozart’s balance of elegance and intensity to excellent effect. Scattered somewhat helter-skelter on the CD as supplements to the sonatas are works that are apparently present simply because Kim finds them charming. Listeners will agree: the little Gigue in G and the four selections from the dozen written for Count Czernin are completely winning in their melding of pleasant simplicity with formal perfection – again, it would be a pleasure to hear Kim play all 12 of the Czernin works. Also here, and making for a first-rate contrast of mood, are the Allegro in G minor, K. 312, from an unfinished sonata, and the Adagio in B minor, K. 540. Kim plumbs the expressiveness of both these pieces, especially the latter, without making either of them seem grander or more deeply emotional than they in fact are. Also here are the delightful variations on Gluck’s Unser dummer Pöbel meint, which Kim presents in lighthearted fashion with an emphasis – but not an over-emphasis – on their virtuosic elements. The disc concludes with Liszt’s piano arrangement of the simple but emotive Ave verum corpus, K. 618, which ends the CD in a mood of contemplative thoughtfulness that contrasts well with the many more-lighthearted moments on a very-well-played, very-well-recorded disc that will surely whet listeners’ appetite for more of Kim’s interpretations of Mozart.

-- Infodad

Listening to the 2016 Queen Elisabeth Competition online, I chanced upon a terrific account of Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata in progress, without knowing who was playing. It turned out to be Su Yeon Kim, whose 2021 Warsaw Chopin Competition performances equally impressed me. Earlier in 2021 she won first prize in Montreal’s Concours Musical. Apparently Kim thrives in competition situations. More importantly, as her Steinway & Sons solo debut reveals, she thrives in Mozart.

How clever of Kim to start things off with a bracing performance of the composer’s delightful Eine kleine Gigue, where she accentuates the rhythmic displacements to perfection. Her B minor Adagio is closer to Horowitz’s elegance (DG, 11/89) and wistful fluidity than Arrau’s patented ‘proximity to death’ vantage point (Philips, 8/84). On the other hand, Kim’s wide dynamic contrasts and forceful accents underline the underrated G minor Allegro’s emotional unrest, while the Variations on Gluck’s aria ‘Unser dummer Pöbel meint’ benefits from the pianist’s forthright attitude and assiduous tempo relationships.

The outer movements of the D major Sonata, K311, stand out for Kim’s expert finger legato and a sense of air between phrases that’s easier to hear than to explain. If anything, her reading of the F major Sonata, K332, better reveals the music underneath the surface glitter. Many pianists, for instance, treat the Assai allegro finale as an exercise in ‘anything you can play I can play faster’. Not Kim, who makes virtuoso points through careful articulation, placement of accents, dynamic gradations and not short-changing the dramatically placed rests. Kim also plays three selections from the K269 Contredanses as well as you’d expect, but don’t expect her to turn trifles into truffles, so to speak! A highly enjoyable and recommendable release.

-- Gramophone

Korean Su Yeon Kim , winner of the 2021 Montréal International Music Competition, engraved the Sonatas no 9 k. 311 and No. 12 K. 332 by Mozart for her first album on the Steinway label, launched today under the simple title of Mozart Recital.

Distinguished by an incisive and very articulate approach, the pianist brings a breath of fresh air with her lively, airy interpretation, tinged with humor, a pearly and delicate touch but still full of strength, very virtuoso in fast passages. (like the Assai allegro from Sonata No. 12) with the required sensitivity in the slow movements. Listening is pleasant and refreshing.

The program also includes Ten variations in G major on "Unser dummer Pöbel meint" K. 455, a theme from Gluck's comic opera Die Pilger von Mekka [The Pilgrims of Mecca] as well as the Little Gigue in G major, K. 574, a piece with baroque accents whose execution is nimble, but precise and rich in subtle details.

In a completely different spirit, the Ave Verum Corpus in a transcription by Franz Liszt turns out to be soft and vaporous, like a dream scene to gently conclude this album full of character and altogether very successful.

-- Ludwig van Montréal

This all-Mozart recital is the first recording by the Korean pianist Su Yeon Kim (b. 1994), 2021 Grand Laureate of the Concours musical international de Montréal. The young artist has spent much of her career delving deep into Mozart’s music, having studied at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg and competed successfully at the Mozart International Competition. Although this background gave her a good foundation, to record an album of Mozart’s music still presented a formidable challenge to the young pianist: “Even after 10 years of diligent studies, I still felt like there were a few steps left before I fully understood Mozart’s music and the spirit behind it,” she explains. “His music is full of life and power, encompassing the full spectrum of human emotions and transcending all eras and cultural boundaries. I feel that I also learned, through Mozart's music, how to face myself in an unfiltered way, how to accept and express from painful sadness to sheer joy.” On the album, she presents a variety of music of different styles, from the quirky opening Gigue, the rollicking Contredanses, and of course a couple of more substantial pieces, the Sonatas Nos. 9 & 12. Of course, even within the sonatas, Mozart gives us a variety of emotions, and Su Yeon Kim brings a deft touch to the keyboard that brings balance to the proceedings. Between the two sonatas are three standalone pieces – an Allegro, a heartfelt Adagio, and the energetic and playful Variations on “Unser dummer Pöbel meint.” She then closes her recital with the meltingly beautiful Franz Liszt arrangement of Mozart’s Ave verum corpus. As usual, Steinway & Sons has done an excellent job of capturing the sound of the piano.

-- Classical Candor

No matter the pianist involved or the works performed, every Steinway & Sons release is cause for excitement when it makes good on the label's promise, to produce stellar recordings of solo piano music performed on some of the world's finest pianos. Su Yeon Kim's debut album upholds that tradition with a sterling set of Mozart material, the Korean pianist having dedicated many years to absorbing the composer's music and developing a comprehensive understanding of its depth and range. Adding to the clarity of the performances, the recording was captured at Sono Luminus Studios over two days in October 2022.

Born in Seoul in 1994, Kim's international profile received a significant boost when she was awarded second prize at the International Mozart Competition 2020 in Salzburg and first prize at the Concours musical international de Montréal 2021. After first attending the Korea National Institute for the Gifted in Arts, she moved to Salzburg at the age of nineteen where she studied at the Mozarteum University and began immersing herself in Mozart's world. It's impossible to convey in one recording the vastness of the composer's music, yet in her selections a broad emotional spectrum of highs and lows is encompassed, with some pieces imbued with joy and others tinged with sadness.

Things begin on a bright note with the sunny if fleeting Gigue in G major, K 574 “Eine kleine Gigue,” composed in Leipzig on May 16, 1789. The piece is brief, but it's long enough for Kim's sterling technical command to declare itself. The radiant tone of the opener carries over into four selections from 12 Contredanses for Count Czernin, K 269b, written a dozen years earlier. Folk dance elements surface, be it in the graceful moves of the lively “No. 1 in G major” or the in the elegance of the second, also in G major. The rousing “No. 3 in C major” oozes charm, after which the twelfth in the series caps the performance with breathless animation.

Two of Mozart's better-known sonatas appear, the Sonata No. 9 in D major, K 311 and Sonata No. 12 in F major, K 332. Kim executes both with characteristic elan, her affection for the material evident in every sparkling gesture. Precisely articulating its passages at light speed, she executes the ninth sonata's opening allegro breezily before imbuing her exquisite rendering of its andante with all of the requisite sensitivity it demands. Kim's fingers dance across the keyboard throughout the closing “Rondo-Allegro,” regal in one passage and effervescent in another. Her rendition of the twelfth, with its luminous allegros and lustrous adagio, is as endearing.

One of the album's more beguiling settings is Variations on “Unser dummer Pöbel meint,” which Mozart apparently improvised during a concert as a tribute to the composer of the original aria, Christoph Willibald Gluck, who was in attendance. Over thirteen engaging minutes, the simple, majestic theme gives way to ten enthralling and imaginative variations Kim executes with aplomb. While a hint of melancholy seeps into the dramatic Allegro in G minor, K 312, the Adagio in B minor, K 540 pushes further into a funereal realm with lyrical expressions of tenderness and yearning. Kim saves the most touching piece for last, a beautifully voiced rendering of Ave verum corpus, K 618 that was originally a motet but here appears in a piano transcription by Franz Liszt.

In these poised performances, she gives herself fully to capturing the essence of the material and collapsing any separation between the time when it was written and her present-day performance. Mozart Recital is a case where exceptional technique partners with a deep grasp of a composer's sensibility to produce a recording of authenticity and impact.

-- Textura

During her studies, pianist Su Yeon Kim has kept Mozart close. She studied for a decade at Mozarteum University, won first prize at the Concours international de Montréal in 2021 and second place in the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg. Kim has lived for some time in Salzburg. In 2023, she will also reconnect with her hometown Seoul as Artist-in-Residence of Kumho Art Hall.

For her Steinway & Sons Mozart Recital, Kim plays two sonatas and a number of smaller pieces, some obscure and seldom performed. Even in these latter works, her artistry makes a strong case for their relevance to Mozart’s legacy. Eine Kleine Gigue, which opens the recording, is filled with thorny counterpoint and syncopations, which the pianist imparts with fleet zest. The Allegro in G minor is also delivered at a quick pace, but with clarity in every motive and passage.

Four of the Twelve Contredanses for Count Czernin are presented in a variety of tempos with elegant ornamentation. Variations on “Unser dummer Pöbel meint” is a substantial set. Kim outlines the original theme with forceful clarity, accompanying it in assured fashion with countermelodies and passagework, in later variations never obscuring the tune’s mutable game of hide and seek. Her rendition of Adagio in B minor is poignant, employing rubato to good effect, as does her performance of Franz Liszt’s transcription of Ave Verum Corpus.

Kim plays two sonatas, Sonata No. 9 in D and Sonata No. 12 in F Major. Her tempos are well-selected and use of embellishment judicious and executed with finesse. The D major sonata is enthusiastically imbued with the con spirito marked in the first movement. The Andante con espressione is played tenderly, with lovely dynamic shadings. Kim’s playful interpretation of rubato lends to the Rondo finale’s appeal, as do the whirling dance rhythms and quick scalar passages. The Sonata in F is played with as much drama as its relatively compact framework will hold, each of the motives unfurling like a miniature aria. The second movement Adagio is not taken too slowly, and is played with suavity. The Rondo finale shows off Kim’s considerable chops, as well as the joyous demeanor with which this whole program is played. Recommended.

-- Sequenza 21

One should never take anything for granted now or any other time, for that matter. There are no guarantees. And that is part of what makes the emergence of pianist Su Yeon Kim all the more remarkable. Take the new album Mozart Recital (Steinway & Sons CD and Digital). Over the years of course there has been a good deal of coverage of such staples of the repertoire. Yet the superficially facile quality of much of it can be a sign that sometimes the music might be grossly underappreciated. An acceptable level recording of much of it is a given, yet how much more moving are the Simple Simon works not as usually tossed off, how much more they seem when given a detailed everything counts reading by Su Yeon Kim. It all is a matter of a kind of living vibrancy when Ms. Kim takes it all on with care and concern. Legato so needs to be there in the mix, as well as a just sense of pauses and none of at its extreme the ratatat machine-gun regularity monotony and such. So with Su Yeon Kim we get a living, breathing music here no matter sometimes how initially simple it may seem on the surface.

Generally speaking the LP era showed so many wonderful pianists tackling the sonatas with some care and energy, but for all the rest sometimes a kind of offhandedness. The other stuff sounded dashed off at times. And for the Sonatas sometimes speed was the byword. Not as much with Su Yeon Kim’s full bodied recording here. Yes, revel in the Sonatas 9 and 12, then too of “Eine Kleine Gigue,” where the intensive reading of the right-hand line is so mesmerizing as to bring us to where Mozart heard it and wonderfully so? She shows herself an intelligently expressive poetess throughout.

And so it is more or less with every inch of music heard on this album. It shows Su Yeon Kim as a master of her art and an extraordinary painter of tonal images. It brings to us a side of Mozart pianism not as frequently heard as we might like, the rubito articulate poet, the deep wielder of extraordinary subtle power.

-- Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

In 2021, Su Yeon Kim won the Concours Musical International de Montréal. Recording this album was part of her prize. Yet it’s the listener who is the real winner here. The South Korean pianist’s playing is a joy, and this album, which is simply titled Mozart Recital, reveals her as a Mozartian through and through.

It’s a beautifully constructed programme, full of contrasts: serious, playful, extrovert, introspective, dancing, operatic. On the one hand, there’s the rustic joy of four of the 12 Contredanses for Count Czernin; on the other, the sombre profundity of the Adagio in B minor. The very first piece, the quirky Kleine Gigue in G, barely sounds like Mozart at all. Its subject darts all over the place, like a Bach fugue on fast forward, and Kim captures its quicksilver essence. Rare gems like this are a sign, too, that this album has been put together with great thought.

In her booklet introduction, Kim writes that she subscribes to pianist Artur Schnabel’s wisdom that the sonatas are ‘too easy for children and too difficult for artists’. Yet she reconciles that paradox here in two sonatas, Nos 9 and 12. Supple phrasing, sparkling fingerwork, natural tempos: Kim’s playing delights and illuminates. Does Liszt’s transcription of Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, rather more resonantly recorded than everything else, feel like an unexpected lurch into the 19th century? Perhaps – but it is also a heartfelt way to end what really is a winning debut.

-- Classical Music by BBC Music Magazine

Among many similar successes, Su Yeon Kim was aprize-winner ta hte Salzburg Mozart International Competition ni 2020. She studied at hte city's Mozarteum, too, and has worked with such Mozartians as Alfred Brendel, András Schiff and Robert Levin. It's no surprise, then, that her debut recording reveals her strong identification with the composer ni apair of sonatas and ascattering of single movements for solo piano. It's a programme that shows the wt o sides of Mozarts' keyboard personality: the young virtuoso, with a facility that can be in danger of becoming facile in less considerate hands, and the older harmonic adventurer, able to prod at the emotions through unexpected sequences and dissonances.

The opening Kleine Gigue (K574) combines both of these facets. I once heard Charles Rosen make ti sound like an offcut from Schoenberg's workbench; Kim doesn't quite let loose that anarchy but audibly relishes the way in which Mozart makes rhythm and harmony play tag with each other. In the two sonatas she displays her command of legato and evenness of trills and Alberti basses, orchestrating repeated figures and passages through instinctive variations of touch. She doesn't limit herself to a timid mezzo-forte in deference to 18th-century performance practice, opening the throttle on the Steinway when needs be, bringing rhetorical grandeur to the late G minor Alegro (K312) and the fantasia-like B minor Adagio (K540). Her subito fortes in the transition passages of K332's opening movement realy sting.

The lighter works - the K45 variations and a group of four contredanses - are treated with a seriousness that prevents them from becoming mere bagatelles; here and elsewhere Kim's ornamentations, varied reprises and gentle rubato feel natural and don't pull focus from the music. As an envoi she plays Liszt's transcription of the Ave verum corpus, a sublime benediction to close a beautiful Mozart recital.

-- International Piano

The Steinway house label has an excellent track record in celebrating new talent from the roster of Steinway artists (as well as issuing recordings from established artists). Korean pianist Su Yeon Kim vaulted onto the international stage with her first prize at the Concours musical international de Montreal in 2021. This all-Mozart recital is a labor of love for Kim, who studied at the Mozarteum University for ten years. Her selections largely steer clear of the dark side of Mozart, which comes across as a nod of respect to the genius of Mozart (she quotes Schnabel’s famous aphorism that “Mozart’s sonatas are too easy for children and too difficult for artists”). She opens her program with the gigue that is best known in its orchestrated version in Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana and continues with a selection of four of the twelve contradanses penned by a young Mozart. The brilliant Piano Sonata No. 9, another relatively early work, gets a taut, sparkling treatment from Kim, with an especially elegant Andante con espressione.

My only substantial criticism of Kim is her tendency to go a bit too fast, for my taste, in the Allegros. This is noticeable in the outer movements of K 311, but more so in the ebullient F-Major Piano Sonata, K 332. The first-movement Allegro, which marks a new mature direction for Mozart, is delivered in a rather perfunctory manner. Kim’s playing here is a good example of rushed playing that does not necessarily result from merely tempos that are too fast. She finds a true Allegro pacing, but a compressed dynamic range and metronomic rhythm renders the music anxious and lacking in theatrical subtly. The limpidly beautiful Adagio is much better, featuring a natural, easily breathing pace and lovely dynamic phrasing. But then the concluding Allegro assai, which fairly bursts off the pages of the score, returns to a more prosaic presentation. Liszt’s unabashedly Romantic arrangement of Ave verum corpus seems like a poetically apt way to conclude what is a generally successful recital; Kim caresses the music with great care, as the arpeggiated chords, which are utterly un-Mozartian, expose the timeless, magical soul of the music.

-- Fanfare

What a pleasure to discover Su Yeon Kim's naturally singing music. Born in 1994, in 2021 she won first prize at the Montreal Competition, a year after winning second place at the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg – the city where she studied from the age of nineteen with Paul Guida and Pavel Gililov. Rather than a risky series of sonatas, her program mixes a few rare pieces with two of them, such as this astonishing little gigue (an almost “twelve-tone” piece, according to Andras Schiff), four of the twelve Contredanses KV 269, or even these cheerful Variations KV 455 on a theme from Gluck's comic opera The Pilgrims of Mecca.

In the Sonatas KV311 and 332, her loose playing, of luminous vivacity, with a delicate cantabile, never succumbs to sterile research. The sound remains perfectly balanced, without heaviness or dryness, without caricatured romantic temptation. We admire the tense sensitivity put into the Adagio in B minor, played with spirit. Her angelic vision of the Ave verum in Liszt's version alone testifies to the very beautiful performance of this Mozartian creation.

-- Diasapon [Translated from the French]

Where to begin with the wonders of this album by the young pianist Su Yeon Kim, making her debut on the Steinway & Sons label? She should fit right in there, mixing charisma with the bold pianistic approach the label favors. Kim manages to dredge up some Mozart works that are genuinely unfamiliar, make good cases for them, and execute them brilliantly. Consider the Variations on “Unser dummer Pöbel meint,” K. 455, where Mozart builds some of the most virtuosic music he ever wrote onto an almost absurdly clumsy theme. Kim's reading is absolutely clean, and she catches the spontaneity and humor Mozart–s pianism must have had in its own day. Equally obscure are the four excerpts from the 12 Contredanses for Count Czernin, K. 269b, which also have a variation aspect; they are multistrain dances unlike anything else Mozart wrote (except for his other contradances), and Kim again sees how Mozart could bring original thinking even to music in such a small form. The two piano sonatas that form the centerpieces of the program are full of structural insights; Kim has a precise touch that does not lose warmth. Most of the music is lighthearted, which makes the grim Adagio in B minor, K. 540, all the more moving. There are many more attractions here for listeners to discover, among them Steinway's clear sound from the Sono Luminus studios, in one of the finest Mozart recitals to come along in some time. May there be more from where this one came.

-- AllMusic Guide

Su Yeon Kim's debut album is convincing across the board.

With the title “Mozart Recital”, the album by the young Korean pianist Su Yeon Kim, released on the Steinway & Sons label, is programmatically clearly defined. She has made an extremely varied, cleverly compiled and anything but standard selection of works. With the straightforward, purposeful, dance-like Gigue KV 574, she opens the combination of pieces that are common in the concert hall and those that tend to be on the outer edge of the repertoire - at the same time a cross-section of different creative periods in Mozart's pianistic oeuvre.

Subtly shaded

In her selection of four from the “12 Contretanzen für die Graf Czermin” KV 269b, she shows with lively creative play how much musical substance there is even in such “occasion works” by Mozart that are superficially hastily dismissed. She puts sparkling ornaments, witty ideas and thematic inventiveness in the right pianistic light here, as well as in the variations on “Unser dummer Pöbel meint” KV 455, in which smooth scales and weightless phrasing represent the much-quoted Mozart, who in reality is so difficult to grasp musically bring the lightness to the point. In contrast, the G minor Allegro KV 312 and the Adagio B minor KV 540 penetrate into melancholically darkened depths; Kim also moves in these spheres with a sure sense of emotional, dynamic and harmonically subtly shaded sensitivities. “Too easy for children, too difficult for adults” – this is a quip handed down by Artur Schnabel about Mozart’s piano sonatas, two of which Kim recorded here. The “Allegro con spirito” of the D major sonata KV 311 has exactly the gallant esprit inherent in the movement name, Kim grades the lively, effervescent themes in a multi-faceted manner. The “Andante con espressione” lives up to the title and, despite the comparatively fast tempo, impresses with its cantabile intensity.

Weightless elegance

The “Rondo” has gripping freshness and virtuoso elegance. In the F major sonata KV 332, clear structures and concise articulation prevail in the “Allegro”, which energetically charges the forte-piano contrasts of the eighth-note modulations at the end of the exposition. She sings the cantilenas of the middle movement with a warm, sensitive touch, and plays the final movement with lively delicacy. A compositionally competent, expressively performed arrangement of the “Ave verum corpus” KV 618 rounds off a debut album that makes further recordings eagerly awaited in the near future. Her playing would be particularly suitable for further Mozart projects – such as a cyclical sonata recording.

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