Yang Plays Beethoven

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  • Biography
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September 21, 2019 

Memorial Auditorium

Pre-concert talk with Maestro Fakhouri begins at 6:45 PM

Concert begins at 7:30 PM 

New this season!




Blessed with “poetic and sensitive pianism” (Washington Post) and a “wondrous sense of color” (San Francisco Classical Voice), Grammy-nominated pianist Joyce Yang captivates audiences with her virtuosity, lyricism, and interpretive sensitivity.

She first came to international attention in 2005 when she won the silver medal at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The youngest contestant at 19 years old, she took home two additional awards: Best Performance of Chamber Music (with the Takàcs Quartet), and Best Performance of a New Work. In 2006 Yang made her celebrated New York Philharmonic debut alongside Lorin Maazel at Avery Fisher Hall along with the orchestra’s tour of Asia, making a triumphant return to her hometown of Seoul, South Korea. Yang’s subsequent appearances with the New York Philharmonic have included opening night of the 2008 Leonard Bernstein Festival – an appearance made at the request of Maazel in his final season as music director. The New York Times pronounced her performance in Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety a “knockout.”

In the last decade, Yang has blossomed into an “astonishing artist” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), showcasing her colorful musical personality in solo recitals and collaborations with the world’s top orchestras and chamber musicians through more than 1,000 debuts and re-engagements. She received the 2010 Avery Fisher Career Grant and earned her first Grammy nomination (Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance) for her recording of Franck, Kurtág, Previn & Schumann with violinist Augustin Hadelich (“One can only sit in misty-eyed amazement at their insightful flair and spontaneity.” – The Strad). She has become a staple of the summer festival circuit with frequent appearances on the programs of the Aspen Summer Music Festival, La Jolla SummerFest and the Seattle Chamber Music Society.

Other notable orchestral engagements have included the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the BBC Philharmonic, as well as the Toronto, Vancouver, Sydney, Melbourne, and New Zealand symphony orchestras. She was also featured in a five-year Rachmaninoff concerto cycle with Edo de Waart and the Milwaukee Symphony, to which she brought “an enormous palette of colors, and tremendous emotional depth” (Milwaukee Sentinel Journal).

In solo recital, Yang’s innovative program has been praised as “extraordinary” and “kaleidoscopic” (Los Angeles Times). She has performed at New York City’s Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Museum, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Chicago’s Symphony Hall and Zurich’s Tonhalle. In 2018, Musica Viva presented Yang in an extensive recital tour throughout Australia.

As an avid chamber musician, Yang has collaborated with the Takács Quartet for Dvořák – part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series – and Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet with members of the Emerson String Quartet at the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. Yang has fostered an enduring partnership with the Alexander String Quartet, which continues in the 2018/2019 season with performances in Davis, Tucson, San Francisco, Dallas, Aliso Viejo, Rockville and Seattle. Following their debut disc of Brahms and Schumann Quintets, their recording of Mozart’s Piano Quartets was released in July 2018 (FoghornClassics). Jerry Dubins of Fanfare Magazine wrote that the renditions were “by far, hands down and feet up, the most amazing performances of Mozart’s two piano quartets that have ever graced these ears.”

Yang’s wide-ranging discography includes the world premiere recording of Michael Torke’s Piano Concerto, created expressly for Yang and commissioned by the Albany Symphony. Yang has also “demonstrated impressive gifts” (New York Times) with the release of Wild Dreams (Avie Records), on which she plays Schumann, Bartók, Hindemith, Rachmaninoff, and arrangements by Earl Wild. She recorded Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Denmark’s Odense Symphony Orchestra that International Record Review called “hugely enjoyable, beautifully shaped … a performance that marks her out as an enormous talent.” Of her 2011 debut album for Avie Records, Collage, featuring works by Scarlatti, Liebermann, Debussy, Currier, and Schumann, Gramophone praised her “imaginative programming” and “beautifully atmospheric playing.”

In 2018/2019, Yang has focused on promoting creative ways to introduce classical music to new audiences. She will serve as the Guest Artistic Director for the Laguna Beach Music Festival in California, curating concerts that explore the “art-inspires-art” concept – highlighting the relationship between music and dance while simultaneously curating outreach activities to young students. Yang continues her unique collaboration with the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet with performances of Half/Cut/Split – a “witty, brilliant exploration of Robert Schumann’s Carnaval” (The Santa Fe New Mexican) choreographed by Jorma Elo – a marriage between music and dance to illuminate the ingenuity of Schumann’s musical language. The group will tour in Aspen, Santa Fe, Dallas, Denver, Scottsdale, and New York.

Also in 2018/2019, Yang will share her versatile repertoire, performing solo recitals and performing 12 different piano concertos all throughout North America. Yang will reunite with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Edo De Waart for five concerts in New Zealand, following up a successful 2017 collaboration in which Yang displayed “fabulous lyricism” and “assured technique” (Otago Daily Times).

Born in 1986 in Seoul, South Korea, Yang received her first piano lesson from her aunt at the age of four. She quickly took to the instrument, which she received as a birthday present. Over the next few years won several national piano competitions in her native country. By the age of ten, she had entered the School of Music at the Korea National University of Arts, and went on to make a number of concerto and recital appearances in Seoul and Daejeon. In 1997, Yang moved to the United States to begin studies at the pre-college division of the Juilliard School with Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky. During her first year at Juilliard, Yangwon the pre-college division Concerto Competition, resulting in a performance of Haydn’s Keyboard Concerto in D with the Juilliard Pre-College Chamber Orchestra. After winning the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Greenfield Student Competition, she performed Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto with that orchestra at just twelve years old. She graduated from Juilliard with special honor as the recipient of the school’s 2010 Arthur Rubinstein Prize, and in 2011 she won its 30th Annual William A. Petschek Piano Recital Award.

Yang appears in the film In the Heart of Music, a documentary about the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. She is a Steinway artist.

from Joyce Yang website: pianistjoyceyang.com/about


Von Weber: Overture to Der Freischütz

The premiere of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz in 1821 marked a significant turning point in German opera. In the late eighteenth century, classical Italian opera dominated in Europe, and the German singspiel, considered a lowbrow form of musical theatre, served as a weak counterpart to the established Italian conventions. During this period, Weber became the music director of Dresden’s Semper Opera House in Germany, and he eagerly sought to establish an equally reputable German tradition of opera. Embracing the ideals of the Romantic movement that was blooming in literature and art, Weber spent four years composing a masterpiece that would topple the classical hegemony of Italian opera and prominently establish the German Romantic opera.

A precursor to German nationalism in music, Der Freischütz (“The Freeshooter”) is a distinctly German tale inspired by German legend, literature, and folk song. The Overture summarizes the story of a young marksman’s pact with the devil in his quest for love. A slow introduction sets the ominous tone of the opera and acquaints listeners with the marksman, characterized by a horn quartet, and the sinister works of the devil, portrayed by the low registers of the strings and the woodwinds. Various themes and arias from the opera are quoted in the Overture as a foreshadowing of events to come. The yearning melodies, striking dynamic contrasts, and sudden suspensions of pulse are all hallmarks of German Romantic opera style. Der Freischütz was an instant success in its time and had a significant influence on several later composers, including Richard Wagner. Though the entire opera is less-performed today, the Overture remains one of Weber’s most popular orchestral works.


Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op.37

By 1800, Ludwig van Beethoven made a name for himself as a pianist in Vienna. Following in the footsteps of Mozart, whose musical legacy loomed in the decades following his death in 1791, the young and promising Beethoven quickly earned the aristocratic patronage needed to establish and sustain a musical career. His early piano works modeled the classical styles of Haydn and Mozart, for whom he had great admiration. Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor shares many similarities with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, including the soloist-orchestra interplay at the end of the first movement. Always eager to push boundaries, however, Beethoven did make use of an important advancement in piano technology in this composition. At the turn of the nineteenth century, additional keys were added to the piano to expand its range beyond the then standard five-octaves. Beethoven’s third piano concerto is thought to be the first piano piece to use the high G note, which appears at the peak of the soloist’s introduction in the first movement. Though his mature style was still developing, Beethoven’s ambitious spirit and characteristic style of pushing musical expression to its limits are present in the C minor piano concerto.


Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88

Antonín Dvořák was one of the first Czech composers to achieve worldwide recognition. Passionate about his homeland and its traditional music, Dvořák often incorporated the folk melodies and rhythms of Bohemian culture into his compositions. In the summer of 1889, Dvořák retired to his country home at Vysoká, and, inspired by the beautiful gardens and forests surrounding him, composed the Eighth Symphony in just two months. In celebrating the beauty of the Czech countryside, Dvořák composed with a more pictorial aesthetic than a structural one, and in so doing transformed idyllic images of nature into a poetic sonic landscape.

From the beginning, Dvořák juxtaposes major and minor tonalities to capture the dueling and ephemeral aspects of nature. Though the piece is in G major, a solemn introduction in G minor evokes an image of dawn approaching a dark and quiet forest. A birdcall, expressed by solo flute, then awakens the rest of the orchestra, and a bustling scene of forest life ensues. A gloomy passage interrupts this lively scene in what some have likened to a cloud blocking the sunlight. As the cloud moves and the sun shines once again, the first movement ends with an exciting splendor. The pastoral Adagio evokes a picturesque scene of a garden on a warm summer day. As in the first movement, the tranquil mood of the scene is interrupted by a passage in a minor key, perhaps suggesting a mid-afternoon thunderstorm. The third movement is a melancholy waltz based on Bohemian folk music, while the exhilarating finale begins with a trumpet fanfare that calls for the celebration and admiration of nature.