Han-Na Chang: Her Technique Is Now Just One Facet to Marvel At

Monday, December 11, 2006

Han-Na Chang, a 24-year-old cellist from Korea, weathered her years as child prodigy well. At 11, she won a major competition and began work with top-notch orchestras. If back then it was her dazzling technique that grabbed attention, her Saturday evening recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater showed that interpretative ideas have moved more to the forefront.

Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70, received a graceful account, before a warmhearted if somewhat brisk Sonata in D Minor, Op. 40, of Shostakovich. Chang beautifully illuminated a couple of Chopin gems after intermission: The wonderful Sonata in G Minor, Op. 65, emerged with as much tenderness and lush silkiness as the Introduction and Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3, had rhythmic drive and zest.

It was still sometimes hard to get beyond the fact that Chang possesses supreme technique. In Schumann, there was that clean, spot-on attack that contributes to the clarity of her passagework. The flowing phrases of the Chopin maintained a consistent fullness across their duration. That beautifully focused melancholic tone, which can sing in the upper registers and stir with brooding power at the lower range, was on display throughout.

Yet elements like tone, phrasing and rhythmic sense served the composer. Although one could argue that Chang's brisk tempos sacrificed some grit and detail, Chang found the central wit and swagger of the Shostakovich, suitably pulling the music worlds away from the composer's more anguished music. The eloquently turned Chopin had the quality of a loving soliloquy that spoke of a poetic feeling. And, most importantly, there was spontaneity, balance and discourse with her accompanist, the Argentine pianist Sergio Tiempo, whose playing also consistently merged technique and musicality.

The Washington Performing Arts Society sponsored this presentation of musical color and depth.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

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