It's not every day that one gets to hear Beethoven and Korean sanjo music on the same program. But such eclecticism seems to be stock in trade for the Korea Foundation, which presented the Korean Festival Ensemble's concert last night at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. A piece by Earl Kim, an American composer of Korean descent, provided a brief stop in the 20th century, followed in the second half by a solid but staid performance of Beethoven's Trio Op. 1, No. 3.
Monologues for Violin, Cello, and Piano is an intriguing piece tightly wrought from sparing, delicate materials. Each instrument, muted at first and then gradually intensifying its tone, plays a short piece separately until the end, when motives from each are woven into a shimmering tapestry.
Next, a large straw mat was rolled out onstage for Seung Hee Yang and Eun Mi Kim, who glided out in neon-colored traditional dress. Seung Hee's instrument, the kayageum (zither), is a frequent choice of solo instrumental improvisational music, sanjo. She created exciting percussive sounds by snapping the strings, intensifying the effect as the piece sped up gradually.
The music of Byngki-Hwang, a composer who is trying new twists on ancient tuning systems, is blatantly nonconformist. Throughout Hwang's duet for kayageum, Eun Mi and Seung Hee built tension through rhythmically repeated notes, much like Western ostinati.