So-Mang Jeagal

Piano

January 19, 2017, 6 PM

Music Room

Born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1983, So-Mang Jeagal gave his first recital at age 11. He won the Grand Prize at the 2014 Washington International Piano Competition and first prize at the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition in the same year. A pianist with a wide repertoire and a particular sympathy for music in the grand Romantic tradition, Jeagal’s program at the Phillips includes Rachmaninoff’s formidable Second Sonata—a work championed by Vladimir Horowitz—plus a set of four scherzi by Chopin.

PROGRAM:

SERGEI RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Piano Sonata No. 2 in b-flat minor, Op. 36 (1931)
     Allegro agitato
     Non legato – Lento
     L’istesso tempo – Allegro molto

FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Scherzo No. 1 in b minor, Op. 20 (1833)
Scherzo No. 2 in b-flat minor, Op. 31 (1837)
Scherzo No. 3 in c-sharp minor, Op. 39 (1839)
Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54 (1842)                                                                    

Pianist So-Mang Jeagal performed in many international music festivals and concert series at major concert halls, such as Salzburger Schloss Konzerte of Austria, Konzerthaus of Germany, La Madeleine of France, Seoul Arts Center, J. F. Kennedy Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall. He was chosen to be part of the Kumho Virtuosi Trio Concert Series and toured in four major cities, Sydney, Canberra, Wellington and Auckland, of Australia and New Zealand. Mr. Jeagal also toured in the US including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Toronto, Canada, sponsored by the Seoul National University Alumni Organization in US.

A winner of several national and international competitions, Mr. Jeagal is a recipient of the Grand Prize at the Korea Music Foundation Competition and the First Prize at the Dong-A Music Competition and Asia-Pacific Young Artist Competition. In 2014 alone, he won First Prizes at two renowned international competitions, the Washington International Competition for Piano and the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. As the winner of the competition, Mr. Jeagal presented solo recitals of the music of Liszt at the prestigious Liszt Ferenc Museum and Research Center in Budapest and the Hungarian Cultural Center in London. He was also invited to give a solo recital at the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island.

Mr. Jeagal was born in Daegu, South Korea. He began studying the piano at the age of five and gave his debut recital at the age of eleven. He attended the prestigious performing arts high school in Korea, Seoul Arts High School, and received the Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees with highest honors from the Seoul National University. He graduated Artist Diploma at the Thornton School of Music of USC as a full scholarship student under the tutelage of Professor Kevin Fitz-Gerald. Mr. Jeagal has participated in Masterclasses with eminent concert pianists Leon Fleisher, Murray Perahia, John O’Conor, Klaus Hellwig, Hiroko Nakamura and Hae-sun Paik.

Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sonata No. 2, Op. 36 (1913, rev. 1931)
It seems that Chopin was very much on Rachmaninoff’s mind when he was working on his Second Piano Sonata in Rome during the summer of 1913. Chopin’s own second sonata (1839) was written in the same key, B-flat minor, and it received an opus number (35) very close to Rachmaninoff’s work (36). Moreover, after Rachmaninoff introduced his sonata to the public, he found it was too long, and specifically mentioned the Chopin—which he performed frequently—as being able to say all that needed to be said in just 19 minutes. (In the first version, Rachmaninoff’s sonata was a good eight minutes longer.) He always wanted to revise and shorten the work, but didn’t get around to it until 1931. The new version he made then, however, involved more than cutting it down to a size close to the Chopin; he substantially rewrote the whole sonata, changing many details large and small.

The three movements of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2 are connected by some recurrent motifs: both main ideas of the first movement—a tempestuous opening theme and a quiet second melody reminiscent of a siciliano—reappear in the second movement, and a ritornello-like bridge passage is inserted between the movements that is recognizably the same even though its key and rhythmic shape is different the second time around. These recurrences unify a highly diverse and complex work that runs an unusually wide emotional gamut. Lyrical melodies are given special emphasis by elaborate counter-themes and accompaniment figures; full-fisted chordal passages alternate with cascading sixteenth-note passages. And time and again, one hears the sound of bells, so close to Rachmaninoff’s heart, reminding us that this sonata was written in close proximity to the composer’s great choral work based on Edgar Allan Poe’s poem The Bells.

The opening Allegro agitato is followed by the first bridge passage that leads into an intimate Lento movement that erupts in a wild cadenza before settling back into the peaceful mood of the opening. After the varied repeat of the bridge passage, Rachmaninoff unleashes a dynamic and effervescent Allegro molto that—aside from a few peaceful moments of respite—retains its high energy level to the end.

Frédéric Chopin, Four Scherzos (1831-1842) 
Before Chopin, the world scherzo (literally, “joke”) referred to a movement in a longer symphonic or chamber work, which had taken the place of the 18th-century Minuet. It was always in A – B – A form and almost always in 3/4 time; it was filled with harmonic surprises and other playful effects. In his Four Scherzos written between 1831 and 1843, Chopin gave the term a whole new meaning; his Scherzos are free-standing, independent pieces that retain the outline of the Scherzo form yet are more serious than playful in tone (with the possible exception of No. 4).

Scherzo No. 1 in B minor (Op. 20) was written in 1831, soon after Chopin left his native Poland. The “theme” is sheer virtuosic brilliancy, though with the keen sense of harmonic adventure that characterized Chopin already at age 21. The middle section— much slower than the opening—quotes an old Polish Christmas song. Upon its return, the fiery A section is capped by an even more exuberant coda.

In the Scherzo No. 2 of B-flat minor (Op. 31) from 1837, both the A and the B sections comprise several contrasting themes; their connections and developments show Chopin at his most original. From the mysterious opening (Chopin wanted it to sound soft and sepulchral) emerges first a startling alternation of pianissimos and fortissimos and then, one of the composer’s most glorious soaring melodies. After a hesitant beginning, the Trio section takes off on a fantastic journey that includes passionate melodies, fluid figurations and combinations of both. Then the A section returns with even more dramatic power than the first time. At the height of the excitement, Chopin “forgets” to return to the initial key of B-flat minor and closes the piece instead in the relative major, D-flat, which is another of the many departures from tradition in this unique masterpiece.

Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor (Op. 39) was begun in Majorca, where Chopin and his mistress, the writer George Sand, spent several months in 1838-1839. After a violent flare-up of the composer’s tuberculosis, the couple left the island for Marseille, where the Scherzo was finished in the spring of 1839. The work begins with a passage of considerable tonal and rhythmic ambiguity; there are four notes to the beat instead of three, and the C-sharp tonality takes an exceptionally long time to establish itself. When the key is finally reached, we hear a stormy theme played in parallel octaves that becomes more and more agitated as it develops. As a total contrast, the B section combines a soft, hymn-like melody with a shimmering virtuoso figure of inimitable charm and grace, moving nimbly downwards from the highest register of the piano. Both sections are then repeated. The second time around, the B section leads into a tempestuous coda in which the original ideas are fundamentally transformed to achieve maximum intensity and dramatic power.

The fourth and last Scherzo (E major, Op. 54, 1842) is the only one that both starts and ends in a Major key, and is accordingly significantly lighter in tone than the other scherzos. Its pensive opening motif contrasts with a skipping rhythmical idea. Both themes receive extensive development. The middle section is a gorgeous cantilena (a melody strongly influenced by operatic singing) and is also allowed considerable space to unfold. Then the light-hearted A section returns to end the piece with a wonderful flourish.

—Peter Laki, 2016