An almost full hour of deeply serious piano music must be professionally played to be truly enjoyable. The Sept. 11 noontime recital in Fannin Hall certainly was.
At the Steinway was University of North Texas Ph.D. candidate and sometime Richland accompanist In-Seub Joeng. He performed six solemn pieces all in minor keys that were especially selected for the 17th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 to honor the memory of those who died that tragic day in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Two familiar preludes by Sergei Rachmaninoff and the “Dumka” (Russian Rustic Scene) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky opened the program. They were followed by two Chopin preludes and the J.S. Bach “Chaconne in d minor (from Partita no 2, BWV 1004).” After each number, Joeng stood, smiled humbly and took a brief bow to enthusiastic bursts of applause before resuming his playing.
It is not often that such an eerie quiet settles upon an audience, but from the beginning the Sept. 11 crowd was totally captivated by the exquisite artistry that flowed from Joeng’s fingers. His mastery of the full range of dynamics called for by the numbers he had chosen kept his listeners in awe and at rapt attention.
At times the piano cried out in what seemed like anguish and aching pain. At others it boomed in anger and fury echoing the nation’s range of sentiments after 9/11. Throughout, all the notes and chords, even the most rapid, were crisp and distinct. Perhaps as inspiring as Joeng’s technical skill was the fact that his entire 45-minute program was performed from memory.
Almost unnoticed amid all the thunder and lightning mixed with serenity and sorrow emanating from the topside was Joeng’s fine work below the deck. What the pedals do for a piano performance is often the last thing one thinks about. In several passages, Joeng was equally proficient with his phrasing on the pedals as on the keys.
When questioned afterward by this trivia-hound about whether the impressive performance had employed every one of the piano’s 88 keys, Joeng looked away, thought for a moment or two, then smiled and craftily admitted that he wasn’t absolutely sure, but said that it probably had.