Arts Global

12 June 2010

The Hamptons in Spring 2010: Hahn-Bin to Perform at Benefit Concert

from Omaha World Herald

Violinist looks like punker but plays like virtuoso
by John Pitcher

Many great musicians are eccentric, but Hahn-Bin has transformed quirkiness into a kind of art form.

The 22-year-old South Korean violin phenomenon was in Omaha Tuesday night, presenting a recital at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Almost everything about his performance was unusual, daring and original.

Hahn-Bin, who, like the violinist Midori uses only his first name, dressed for his recital like a punk rocker, wearing a thick, black Mohawk haircut to match his black leather pants and space boots. His unconventional appearance complemented his recital, which he re-imagined as a kind of performance-art play.

He divided his concert into four distinct chapters, titled “De Arte” (a birth, a creature), “Je T'Aime (will you love me), “Muerte” (to the graveyard) and “La bohème (desires undone). During different parts of the recital, he leaned against the piano like a lounge singer, reclined in a chair like a blues guitarist and even knelt in prayer like a Buddhist monk.

Yet once the initial shock of seeing this strange artist onstage wore off, –– which happened about one nano-second after he played his first note –– one was quickly transported into his artistic universe. He accomplished that feat by sheer force of his personality and prodigious musical gift.

Make no mistake: Hahn-Bin is the real deal. A winner of 2008's prestigious Young Concert Artists Audition in New York City, this violinist plays with a burnished, melting tone and with a technique that can conquer the most demanding music.

But what's most impressive about him is his thoughtfulness. For Hahn-Bin, a classical recital is no dull academic exercise. Rather, it is a living, breathing art form that must be played and acted out.

He opened with the rapid-fire passagework of Witold Lutoslawski's “Subito” and followed with John Cage's meditative, youthful “Nocturne” and Nathan Milstein's off-beat transcription of Chopin's C-sharp minor Nocturne. In all of this music, Hahn-Bin's playing was most remarkable for its lack of eccentricity.

Appearances aside, Hahn-Bin is primarily interested in creating a beautiful sound.

Hahn-Bin and his accompanist, pianist John Blacklow, gave a dreamy, searching reading of Ravel's Violin Sonata. The violinist played the sonata's second movement, titled “Blues,” while seated on chair, leaning back at the end like Marlene Dietrich.

In the concert's closing number, Pablo De Sarasate's “Carmen Fantasy,” Hahn-Bin and Blacklow played with drama, sweep and with a thundering sonority that can almost be described as orchestral.

This recital was without question the most exciting performance I've heard in Omaha in two years. The Brownville Concert Series deserves credit for bringing it here as part of its 20th-anniversary season.


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