Yeol Eum Son brings out the subtle beauty of Mozart

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 21, Sonata K330, Variations in C on ‘Lison dormait’ & Fantasy K475

Yeol Eum Son (piano), Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner (conductor)

How appropriate that Yeol Eum Son’s debut CD on the Onyx label should begin with Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K467 ‘Elvira Madigan’. This most popular of Mozart’s concertos was the work that she performed to win her second Silver Medal at the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition and it has become something of a signature piece for her.

Yeol Eum Son plays Mozart’s K467 Concerto in the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition.

For her first outing Yeol Eum Son has opted for an an all-Mozart, all C major affair which she has planned with great attention to detail¹. On this CD, for the ‘Elvira Madigan’ concerto, the young German-based, South Korean pianist is accompanied by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and conducted by Sir Neville Marriner in what was to prove to be his final recording.

Yeol Eum Son plays the concerto with a lightness and freedom that is most appealing and is well supported by the orchestra and conductor who each have an empathy with the music of Mozart. The broad and colourful  Variations in C major on a theme by Nicolas Dezede ‘Lison dormait’ K264 is performed with a sassy cuteness and her playing is at times playful, energetic, jovial, subdued, flashy, vigorous and joyful as befits the variations. The Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K330 demonstrates Mozart’s apparently easy mastery of classical form and is structurally simple and beguiling innocent. Yeol Eum brings the piece to life with neatly sprung rhythms, and inflects the piece with a splendid range of keyboard touch and appropriate colour. The final work is the Fantasia in C minor, K475 with its unusual beginning with a ringing spare, bare octave, followed by a motif that creeps rather than sings, jostled by one diminished chord after another. I wonder how the first audiences responded to this? The work dates from May 1785 and was dedicated to Therese von Trattner. Yeol Eum effectively conveys the sense of restlessness and the constantly shifting moods within the piece.

This is one of the finest debut discs I have recently encountered and one that is likely to be very popular given the artists exposure on YouTube. Thoughtfully played, naturally recorded this is worthy of a place in any Mozart lover’s collection. Yeol Eum is widely praised for her wide repertoire, ranging from Bach and Mozart to Shchedrin and Gershwin. I look forward to her next disc and hopefully to hearing her perform a more eclectic range of works. She is an artist whose career I shall follow with keen interest.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or buy from Presto Classical.

¹ Though originally it was planned to record Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 8 as well but the death of Sir Neville in October 2016 meant a change of content.