Review: Suyeon Kang & Stephen De Pledge, Auckland Town Hall

By William Dart

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Suyeon Kang, the first Australian to take top honours in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.
Suyeon Kang, the first Australian to take top honours in the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

In the third concert of her Winner's Tour, a reward for taking top honours in the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, Suyeon Kang revealed the interpretative scope that secured last year's success.

It was very much a team effort. Pianist Stephen De Pledge was a simpatico partner, whether relishing gnarly turns in Stravinsky's eccentric Suite Italienne, or pulling back the power for crisp, shapely Schubert, in one of the composer's charming sonatinas.

Both these works benefited from the tonal clarity of Sir Michael's Guadagnini violin that Kang played; elsewhere, she called on the more forthright voice of an eighteenth-century Storioni, and particularly poignant it was in the doloroso section of Gone, an inventive solo by Kenneth Young.

There's a gripping Youtube clip of Kang playing Bloch's Baal Shem at last year's Queen Elisabeth International Violin Competition.

Tonight, there was also no need for printed score when she recaptured the same magic, unlocking the heart and soul of a piece introduced by De Pledge as "heart-on-sleeve music of the highest order."

The programme ended with superb Bartok - the Hungarian's 1922 First Sonata, a score that takes no prisoners with either players or audience.

Kang and De Pledge energetically navigated its fearsome 34 minutes from the almost Schoenbergian intensities of the first movement, through rhapsodically lyrical Adagio to the fiery, frenzied eruption of a folk-fuelled finale. Don't miss the live broadcast from Wellington of the duo's second programme, featuring Mozart, Ravel and Stravinsky's Divertimento, on RNZ Concert on Saturday.

What: Suyeon Kang & Stephen De Pledge
Where: Auckland Town Hall

- NZ Herald

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