For the opening concert of Impromptu Fest 2021, Pianist Koeun Grace Lee presents her solo program, “Surfing between Tonality and Post-Tonality,” which reflects distinctive pianistic techniques of composers from South Korea and America who explore the blurring line of tonality and post-tonality through their musical language.
Go-Hyang (Ancestral Home) – David Burge
- Inyon (Fate [Karma])
- Jaejalgawrim (Children’s Chatter)
- Mokrohjujom (Old Inn)
- Chang-gu (Korean Drum)
- Mudang (Shaman)
- Go-Hyang (Ancestral Home)
GASP – HyeKyung Lee
Selections from Wolpe Variations for Solo Piano – Robert Gross
Theme – Stately
- Like a Baroque Prelude
Folksong Revisited – Jean Ahn
- Song of Mongeumpo
Go-Hyang (1994) by David Burge
The reputation of American pianist David Burge (1930-2013) flourished through a long career of performing contemporary music. His later compositions, written after 1984, integrate his interest in foreign cultures and languages with his promotion of contemporary music. One of these works, Go-Hyang (1994) reflects Korean musical and cultural references through the prism of contemporary Western techniques. The work contains six movements to be performed as a single work without pause. Each movement highlights extended piano techniques influenced by George Crumb, consonant post-tonal harmonic language, elements of Korean traditional music (pentatonic scale, folk tune, instrument) and culture (landscape, language, and religion).
GASP (2002) by HyeKyung Lee
HyeKyung Lee (b. 1959) is an Associate Professor of Music at Denison University, Granville, Ohio. Her most recent commissions include the Ambassador Bonnie McElveen for Maestro Gerard Schwarz and the Eastern Music Festival Orchestra in 2018. She holds B.M from YonSei University (Seoul, Korea) and M.M. and D.M.A. from the University of Texas-Austin.
GASP was written for the 2003 American Liszt Society Festival. The piece is based on the first seven notes of the melody from Franz Liszt’s Un Sospiro (a sigh), composed in 1848. This piece won the Renée B. Fisher Composer Award in 2009. Lee has created substantial transformations from “sigh” to “gasp” with repeated notes in moto ostinato form. The contrasting middle section contains colorful sonority with a spatial pattern of trills and arpeggi.
Selections from Wolpe Variations for Solo Piano (2015) by Robert Gross
Robert Gross (b. 1973) holds a D.M.A. in music composition from the University of Southern California, M.A. in Music for Film, Television and Theatre from the University of Bristol in England, M.M. in Music Composition from Rice University, and B.M. in Music Composition from Oberlin Conservatory. He is a Board-Certified Music Therapist, with an M.A. in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University.
According to Gross, Wolpe Variations for Solo Piano is music composed to make essentially two points: first, that the demarcations between tonality and post-tonality are extremely fluid; and second, post-tonal prolongation exists, because without it, post-tonal variation in theme-and-variations form would not be possible. The scope of work is modeled on Frederic Rzewski’s Variations on The People United Will Never Be Defeated, a work Gross admired for a long time. The entire set of Wolpe Variations is approximately 45 minutes.
Folksong Revisited (2005-2008) for Solo Piano by Jean Ahn
Jean Ahn (b. 1976) is a composer based in San Francisco, originally from Korea. She holds a Ph.D in composition from UC-Berkeley and B.M. and M.M. from the Seoul National University.
Ahn wrote Nil-lili for solo piano for the Korean Music Competition of Sejong Cultural Society in Chicago, a non-profit organization, which displays Korea’s cultural heritage to people in the United States. She received the first prize in the competition in 2005. With Nil-lili as a start, Ahn composed two more Korean folksong arrangements for piano, Song of Mongeumpo and Ongheya. She put the three pieces together in a collection entitled Folksong Revisited (2008).
Ahn uses a theme of Korean traditional folk tune for each movement. The first movement presents the theme of “Nil-Nil-li-a,” a folk song from Kyung-gi Province, by juxtaposing whole tone scale, chromatic scale, and the pentatonic clusters. The second movement is based on a boating song called “Mongeumpo.” Ahn captures two contrasting emotions of the sailors in this movement- peaceful and rumbling. The third movement highlights one of the most famous Korean farming songs, “Ongheya,” an antiphonal song that features a call and response between the leader and the farmers.
Notes by Dr. Koeun Grace Lee