Marion Rubin Berman NEC Piano Honors Competition Winner Performs

Concord, NH. Thanks to an invitation by Peggy Senter, founder of the Concord Community Music School (CCMS), Grace Rose Kim, one of the most recent winners of the Marion ("Mitzi") Rubin Berman New England Conservatory (NEC) Piano Honors Competition, graced the CCMS venue. The concert was produced in conjunction with the New England Conservatory Alumni Association. Ms. Kim began her recital with an interesting and perhaps ironic title selection, that of the Piano Sonata in E flat Major, Op. 81a entitled Les Adieux (The Goodbyes) by Beethoven (1770-1827.) Ms. Kim played her opening statements with a serene repose and poise as if creating a perfect still-life of melody.

She then dramatically launched into Beethoven's robust sforzando passages with determined flare. The contrast between Ms. Kim's delicate pianissimos versus her fortissimo passages in the Beethoven, however, were perhaps more suited to a larger hall such as NEC's Jordan Hall and seemed at times a bit too abrupt for the size of the Concord recital hall. Nevertheless, Ms. Kim's dynamic presentation of the sonata invited her audience to witness a champion of the keyboard as if encapsulating the visitation of keys as a playmate would beckon a fellow playmate on a neighboring playground.

Ms. Kim introduced her second set, Sonatine by Ravel (1875-1937) and clearly displayed her passion for her 'favorite composer.' She played the three selections (Modère, Mouvement de Menuet, and Animé) as if her body and facial expressions had become the storyteller, almost doll-like in character, however, yet exquisitely mature in context, embracing Ravel's harmonically eloquent nuances and dynamic contrasts.

After intermission, Ms. Kim presented Images, Book II by Claude Debussy (1862-1937,) which was perhaps this reviewer's favorite of the entire program. Kim glamorously articulated the shimmering harmonies of Debussy as if swimming through the keyboard, creating a sense of playful personification in her physical involvement of each statement from Debussy's Cloches a Travers Les Feuilles to his third movement Poissons D'or.

Kim concluded with the Klavierstücke, Op. 119 by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) incorporating emotional richness coupled with explosive passages, as well as featuring lovely moments of cantabile. She played in a spritely fashion showcasing complicated grace note sections all the while adeptly and physically devouring the more harmonically dense sections.

To be sure, Ms. Kim is a consummate musician and performer. She is to be lauded for preparing a solo program at the behest of Senter after relatively short notification. If anything were in want at her concert, it would be perhaps that she adapt her presentation to the more intimate nature of the Concord recital hall and adjust her overt Glen Gould-like breathing as well as her sforzando sections which at times either upstaged her performance or were overwhelming.

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Ellen Nordstrom
Lyric Mezzo & Vocal Coach