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Pianist Joyce Yang and the Galliard String Quartet return to Hilo

Hilo audiences have been wowed by pianist Joyce Yang for some time. The young artist, who in 2005 captured the silver medal as well as the hearts of a wildly cheering audience at the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, has graced two Hawaii Concert Society seasons as a soloist.

In the HCS’s second concert of its 2012-13 season, Yang’s fans will have a chance to hear her in a different setting, performing together with Honolulu’s Galliard String Quartet. The joint concert, which will include music for piano solo, string quartet, and piano quintet, will take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Performing Arts Center.

Eight years after her Van Cliburn triumph and at the age of 27, Yang has made groundbreaking debut performances all over the world, as soloist with major symphony orchestras, as chamber musician and as a recitalist. Critically acclaimed as “the most gifted young pianist of her generation” with a “million-volt stage presence,” she has captivated audiences with her stunning virtuosity combined with heartfelt lyricism and interpretive sensitivity.

In a recent interview, the Korean-born Yang recalled getting her first piano as a gift for her 4th birthday.

“For my scientific parents, it was an addition to the living room furniture, but for me it was sort of like this great music box that would make all these beautiful sounds.”

Her aunt had just begun teaching piano, using the Suzuki method, and wanted to try her hand at teaching her niece.

“She did a great job of making the piano very special to me,” Yang said. “… a grand, special toy that I would get to play with if I ate my vegetables!”

It wasn’t until several years later, while practicing Beethoven, that she began to appreciate classical music on a deeper level.

“I suddenly felt I heard music for the first time and I got so happy,” Yang said. “For about five minutes, I was in complete bliss. I was by myself, doing it over and over in complete ecstasy, excited about what I heard rather than just pressing keys.”

Yang’s partner in the Hilo concert, the Galliard String Quartet, is Hawaii’s premiere string ensemble. It consists of Claire Sakai Hazzard and Hung Wu, violins, Ethan Pernela, viola, and Joanna Morrison-Pernela, cello. The Quartet’s normal repertoire spans the centuries and the globe, from Bach to the present, from classical staples to music by Queen Lili’uokalani and Keola Beamer.

While the Hilo concert will include pieces for string quartet (Turina’s evocative “Oracion del Torero — the Bullfighter’s Prayer” and early 20th century American composer Charles Griffes’ “Sketches on Indian Themes”), as well as music for piano solo by Rachmaninoff and Bartok, the highlight will undoubtedly be Robert Schumann’s beloved Piano Quintet.

Today that combination of instruments — keyboard with string quartet — seems almost as standardized as the piano trio, but when Schumann wrote his quintet in 1842, no other composer of significance had yet attempted such a thing.

Schumann’s Quintet met with immediate and universal acclaim and enjoyed unanimous popularity throughout the remainder of the composer’s life. Indeed the back-to-back triumphs of his first symphony and the quintet finally established his international reputation as a composer.

The Quintet also held a deeply personal meaning for Schumann. In 1840 after years of separation, Schumann finally married Clara Wieck, one of the most distinguished pianists of the 19th century. Schumann wrote this piece for her and she loved it, performing it throughout her life.

Tickets are $20 general, $16 seniors 60+, and $10 for students. They are available at the Most Irresistible Shop, Book Gallery, the UHH Performing Arts Center Box Office, Music Exchange, and the East Hawaii Cultural Center.

Tickets will also be available on the evening of the concert at the UHH Box Office, from 6:45 p.m.

Joyce Yang will also give a master class for East Hawaii piano students from 3-5 p.m. Nov. 14 at the First United Protestant Church, 1350 Waianuenue Ave. The public is invited to attend.


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