Young South Korean pianist Julian Jaeyoung Kim makes a bold statement with his debut CD, Brahms Resonances, featuring Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 5, and the Variations on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 35.
A C. Bechstein pianist and prize-winner of many prestigious international competitions and awards, Julian Jaeyoung Kim offers a commanding, mature performance of these two big-boned, technically and artistically challenging works by Brahms.
Julian Jaeyoung Kim – J. Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5: I. I. Allegro maestoso
From the opening statement in the first movement of the Piano Sonata, a tumultuous motif which recurs throughout the movement, Kim stamps his authority on this music. Alert to the shifting soundscapes and moods of this movement, Kim moves captures the details and nuances with sensitivity and aplomb. This is even more apparent in the second movement, which flows with an easy charm and expressive lyricism. The third movement, a boisterous Scherzo, bounds ahead with rhythmic vitality, toppling arpeggios, and other virtuoso flourishes but never loses sight of the forward motion and narrative of the music. The middle section is, by contrast, more stately, with block chords and a more understated tone.
The ‘extra’ fourth movement, marked “Rückblick” (“looking back”), harks back to the second movement with elements taken from the other two movements. Kim captures its brooding, meditative qualities with both drama and delicacy when required. It’s a short yet thoughtful and arresting interlude before a jaunty, bounding rondo finale in which Kim once again demonstrates his command of the technical challenges of this music, while also bringing great lyricism and poetry to the swelling lyrical melody and imposing chordal passages.
Julian Jaeyoung Kim – J. Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5: IV. Intermezzo
An appropriate choice, perhaps, for this talented young pianist, Brahms’ composed his third piano sonata in 1853, at the age of just 19, when he was transforming from an unknown to a gifted piano star.
The Variations on a Theme of Paganini were headed Studien für Pianoforte and were composed for the pianist Carl Tausig, one of Liszt’s most celebrated pupils, for whom Brahms had great admiration. Organized in two complementary books, the Op. 35 consists of a Theme with 14 variations and a coda. The work is astonishingly virtuosic and, like Brahms’ other variations, utilises all manner of complex pianistic techniques: leaps, trills, octaves, rapid arpeggios are just some of the challenges encountered across the 14 variations. There’s nothing austere about this music: it’s dramatic, heroic, entertaining (Variation XII is a nod to sentimental salon music), and full of “wow” moments to surprise and delight the listener. But this is not mere bravado playing. Kim is sensitive to the myriad layers and contrasting colours in this music, as well as its wit and humour. Here, too, we find Kim fully embracing the full richness and variety of the piano sound. It’s an impressive debut disc which amply showcases Kim’s prize-winning artistry and musical sensibilities.
Brahms Resonances is released on the KNS Classical label and is also available via streaming.
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