Yoonie Han

Love and Longing

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The beautifully engineered recordings on the U.S.-based Steinway & Sons label hark back, as does the brand name Steinway itself, to the golden age of pianism and the piano recital. The title and gauzy graphics of Love and Longing, a release by South Korean pianist Yoonie Han, actually make the album sound a bit more crossover-oriented and less specific than it really is: it is actually a carefully chosen collection of piano pieces favored by the virtuosos of yore, most of them arrangements of songs or operatic selections. The largest group consists of arrangements of Schubert songs by Franz Liszt, pieces that would have been familiar indeed to European concertgoers of the middle 19th century, but that lately have been regarded with some distaste. Of course they're overdue for a revival, and Han's delicate, poetic approach shows just the details with which Liszt would have teased the sensibilities of his audience. The hoary Mélodie from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice makes an ideal overture, setting a quiet, slightly antique mood, and Han offers several other larger operatic pieces that provide a bit of contrast with the songs but don't break the dreamy mood that she for the most part sustains beautifully. Liszt would have eventually thrown in some fireworks, and that doesn't happen here; the finale is the Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, also arranged by Liszt. It may be that the weight of all this love and longing isn't quite held up when you reach this point, but that may be a matter of taste, and those looking for a very romantic hour of inventively chosen music will be interested in this release.

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