I went to a concert of Chopin's Nocturnes by Kun Woo Paik at Oji Hall, Tokyo.
Chopin's Nocturnes are generally thought of as sentimental and sensual music that somehow lacks depth. However, Kun-Woo Paik's Chopin Nocturnes have a unique world that seems to sink and resonate deep within the listener's heart. A rather small piece of music that lasts only several minutes would have tremendous scope.
In addition, he played the delicate melody with a touch that treated each note with utmost care. Exquisite pedaling supported subtle modulations. The decorative notes are not mere decorations, but constitute the essence of the music. This was a demonstration of the skills and sensitivity that a veteran musician has reached over the years.
Here, I would like to touch on the pieces that particularly impressed me. The opening piece, Op. 9-1, represents a straightforward expression of young Chopin's emotions, but Paik's mature expression covered the entire piece with a profound sadness that touched the heart of the audience. We in the concert hall were made aware that we were in for an intense and profound performance today.
In Op. 27-1 in C-sharp minor, the main melody, full of anxiety and melancholy, was heard with a delicacy that made us listen to it most attentively. In the middle section, the music becomes a powerful drama. There is a glimmer of light in the tragic music, but it is short-lived and sadness takes over in the end. Paik expressed this development with unparalleled passion. Overall, it was a performance that perfectly matched the emotional depth of the piece and Paik's maturity. I think it was the best performance of the day.
Op. 62-1 is a piece that expresses the most delicate emotions of Chopin's later years. There is no passionate drama in this piece, just a series of seemingly ordinary melodies. But the subtle modulations and exquisite polyphonic treatment make the music most delicate. This piece tests a pianist's degree of sensitivity, in my view. Pike revealed the essence of the music by expressing each note with the utmost care. The soothing trills in the recapitulation and the angelic sixteenth-note phrases that follow are the pinnacle of this great piece. The listener is brought to a dreamy state.
The nocturne Op. 48-1 in C minor is the most dramatic and majestic of Chopin's nocturnes. It makes a fitting conclusion to the concert. Pike's interpretation on the CD recording is to start the piece sotto voce and gradually build up to a peak, but on this day, the performance started with a resonant bass from the very beginning, making the overall performance more energetic. This piece, with its so many thick chords, may not necessarily be a pianistic success, but its deep and tragic music is invaluable. Pike's performance spared no effort in expressing the essence of the piece.