Pianist Yoonie Han hits sweet spot at Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater

March 29, 2012

Pianist Yoonie Han, 26, is certainly building a resume. She holds degrees from Curtis and Juilliard but is working on advanced degrees at two other schools. Her concert appearances have taken her throughout Europe and the United States, and she has won 11 competitions, including last year’s Washington International Competition, which sponsored her recital at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on Wednesday evening.

Han’s virtuoso program included two works each of Liszt and Granados, the Bach-Busoni Chaconne and Schumann’s “Carnival’’ — all giant-slayers. Han’s technique was up to the challenge, faltering rarely. Her chain of trills in Liszt’s “En reve” was amazingly pure, the instrument virtually singing. “La Campanella” was good, if lacking the last degree of wild abandon.

Han hit her sweet spot with the Granados numbers: “Los Requiebros,” where her musical imagination and feel for complex textures drew vivid images, and “El amor y la muerte,” which conveyed the pain and suffering of love most viscerally.

The Schumann revealed shortcomings, as this composer often does. Performed after intermission, it was the first time the artist sounded nervous, missing more notes than she had in the flashier repertoire in the first half. It was here that Han’s willingness to indulge in rubato became a detriment; at times, it seemed like a security blanket whenever she ran short of other ideas. A sense of underlying pulse makes all music stronger, and Han’s indulgences with every swooning phrase became off-putting, especially in the dance-based numbers.

At 26, Han is perhaps a little late to still be in development. But this artist’s gifts are manifest, and the road is open to her.

Pianist Yoonie Han won last year’s Washington International Competition, which sponsored her recital at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater on Wednesday evening. (Heather Walsh)

Battey is a freelance writer.

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