Hyunsoon Whang: A Contrast of Compositions

By Amanda King

At 4 p.m. on Feb. 3., Cameron University’s McMahon Endowed chair and professor of Music Hyunsoon Whang presented a piano recital in the University Theatre.

Whang began the concert by performing Robert Schumann’s Arabeske Op. 18., electing to open with a soothing composition as it allowed her to ease listeners into the performance.

Whang told the audience at the close of this first piece, however, that she had plenty of more intense tunes to come.

“If you were relaxed during the first piece,” Whang said, “You won’t be relaxed during this next one.”

Her second composition of the evening was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in C Minor, Op. 10 No. 1, which consisted of three movements.

Whang chose the piece to contrast her selections while also fulfilling her latest “urge to learn a new Beethoven work.”

A brief intermission immediately followed the piece wherein Whang explained her final composition choice of the night, Frederic Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 18.

“Why did he write 24?” Whang said. “Well, my students know because there are 24 keys, right? So, he wrote one for each key.”

Whang chose to play all 24 of Chopin’s Preludes as the centerpiece of her recital.

Ranging from 30 seconds to six minutes long, the second half of her performance was rife with contrasting pieces that Whang felt were always meant to add up to a collective whole.

“I don’t hear people play all 24 altogether, but I think it works as a set.”

Afterward, while thanking her listeners, Whang divulged a desire to leave her audience with something a bit lighter.

“I don’t want you to go home depressed, so maybe I should play something happy” she said.

Her fingers soon dancing across the keys to the tune of an upbeat Johann Sebastian Bach prelude.

Once the song came to an end, Whang again expressed gratitude to her audience and soon left the stage embracing some of her peers and students while receiving not a few flower bouquets.

Whang is no stranger to performing. She is an internationally renowned pianist with hundreds of concert credits all around the globe.

In Feb. 2018, she released her album “Chopin Nocturnes,” which showcases her deep love of the composer’s work.

Whang started dedicatedly playing the piano at the age of four and said it was actually due to her sister’s early lessons that she was first drawn to the piano.

“My older sister was taking piano,” Whang said, “and I just had to do it.”

In addition to Whang’s musical accomplishments, she advises the Asian club, is president of Phi Kappa Phi and holds the Louis D. McMahon Endowed Chair in Music at Cameron University. She continues to instruct music appreciation and piano classes.

Whang tries to play at least one solo recital on campus per year, as well as bring in guest artists for chamber music concerts.

“It’s always nice to play for the community members and the students,” she said. “It makes me really happy.”

Chair of the Art, Music, & Theatre Arts Department Scott Richard Klein believes that having such events on campus is highly advantageous for students.

“I think it’s great that everything is, as far as the concerts, the plays, the galleries, are all free for students because,” Klein said. “This is the time in their lives when they should be exposed to all of this. You know, start developing your sense of aesthetic and what you like. I see the benefits as being tremendous.”

Whang’s performance indeed had a promising turnout, which she said was surprising due to conflicting with Super Bowl LIII’s broadcast.

For more information about the Department of Art, Music and Theatre Arts upcoming concerts, plays and events, contact Scott Richard Klein at scottk@cameron.edu or 580-581-2346.

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