Tuesday 16 July 2013

Jung Soo Yun - Richard Tauber Prize recital

Jung Soo Yun, Joseph Middleton - Wigmore Hall concert flyer
The Korean tenor Jung Soo Yun won the 2010 Richard Tauber Prize which is awarded by the Anglo-Austrian Music Society, and his recital at the Wigmore Hall on Monday 15 July 2013 was part of the prize. Accompanied by Joseph Middleton, himself the recipient of the 2010 Ferdinant Rauter Memorial Prize for accompanists awarded by the society, Jung Soo Yun sang three songs from Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, Richard Strauss' Acht Gedichte Opus 10, three songs by Paolo Tosti, arias by Gounod and Tchaikovsky and two songs from his native Korea.

Jung Soo Yun trained in Korea, and at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and the International Academy of Voice at Cardiff University. He is currently singing Nadir in Les pecheurs de perles at Opera Holland Park and recently understudied Faust at Opera North and Werther at Scottish Opera.

Jung Soo Yun has a richly vibrant, well produced voice with quite an Italianate timbre. It is evenly produced throughout the range, but he has a relatively low centre of gravity. He used full voiced high notes relatively sparingly throughout the concert. He also has a lovely mezza-voce and a great willingness to use it. What was also impressive was, given the style of his voice with its burnished tones and very full climaxes at the top, he did not try and grand stand, everything was carefully and intelligently thought out.

He and Middleton opened with three songs from Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin. Halt! was vividly done, with admirably communicative words. Am Feierabend (After work) was dramatically involving, with Jung Soo Yun conveying a strong narrative sense and wide range of emotion. The final verse of the poem was very finely shaped, displaying his lovely mezza-voce. The final Schubert song, Die böse Farbe (The Loathsome Colour), was again very dramatic with Jung Soo Yun very committed to the words and drama. in fact, he made it more of a dramatic scena than lieder as his emotions were quite large scale.

He seemed more suited to the bigger boned style of Richard Strauss's Acht Gedichte aus 'Letzte Blätter' Op 10, setting poetry by Hermann von Gilm from a collection called Letze Blätter. The songs date from 1885 and were seemingly inspired by Dora Wihan, a married woman with whom Strauss seems to have had some sort of emotional involvement. The two best known songs of the group are the first, Zueignung, and the last, Aller Seelen, but they make an interesting and varied group. As with a number of other Strauss songs, though we associated his work with the female voice, the texts work best with a male protagonist.

Jung Soo Yun  gave a very engaging performance of Zueignung (Dedication) with a lovely, rich, well-filled line, full of dark hints. He had a nice way of shading his voice off in the second verse and the song came to a glorious, full-voiced conclusion. Nichts (Nothing) was a lively piece, full of vivid story-telling. As a performer Jung Soo Yun has a big personality with great charm, and he knows how to use it on the concert platform.

Die Nacht (The Night) was highly communicative with a lovely hushed sound, well shaped phrases and good words. In Die Georgine (The Dahlia) he gave moulded the lines well, starting in a confiding tone but still vividly voiced, and rising to some gloriously burnished climaxes.

Though he is singing lyric roles like Nadir, Jung Soo Yun's is not a slimline lyric voice and it will be interesting to see how his voice continues to develop.

Geduld (Patience) is a slightly odd, unsettled song, but Jung Soo Yun brought out the narrative, giving the ending a nice dramatic intensity. Die Verschwiegenen (The Discreet Ones) was rather recitative like and quite edgy, but it suited Jung Soo Yun's story telling style. Die Zeitlose (The Meadow Saffron), again a curious edgy song, received an intense performance. Middleton gave us a lovely piano introduction to Aller Seelen (All Souls Day) and, like many of Strauss's finest songs, the voice seems to start mid-paragraph, something Jung Soo Yun handled well. There were some lovely confiding moments before he unleashed his full, burnished tone at the end. Throughout he caught the elegiac, melancholy tone of the piece.

After the interval Jung Soo Yun and Joseph Middleton started with three songs by Paolo Tosti (1846 - 1916), the Italian composer who spent a lot of time in London and was knighted by King Edward VII. Singing with a vibrant, well filled, Italianate line, Jung Soo Yun's voice seemed to be made for these songs.

In No t'amo piu (I don't love you any more), to words by Carmelo Errico, Jung Soo Yun gave us a lovely shape to the melody and rose to glorious passion-filled climaxes. Ideale (Ideal) also to words by Errico, was similarly finely and passionately done. L'alba separa dall luce l'ombra (The Dawn Divides The Darkness From The Light) set words by Gabriele d'Annunzio. It is quite a wordy song, but Jung Soo Yun still gave it shape and sense, bringing a nice intentness to the performance.

Next two Korean art songs. Though credited as anonymous in the programme, it was clear from Jung Soo Yun's spoken introduction that they are very definitely composed songs with credited composers. The text of the first, Monijeo (Never Forget You) was by a famous 19th century Korean poet. Monijeo was full of melodic charm in a rather early 20th century Western European manner. Betnorae (Sailors Song) was rather livelier, and it receive a very entertaining almost operatic performance from Jung Soo Yun.

Salut! Demeure chaste et pure from Gounod's Faust was sung with great freedom and flowed well. Jung Soo Yun's voice was even throughout the rang, with his climactic top notes used sparingly and some lovely mezza-voce sections. A beautifully put over account of a well known work.

Finally, Lensky's aria from the duel scene in act two of Yevgeny Onegin. The opera is not down on Jung Soo Yun's cv but judging by this performance, it ought to be. He darkened his tone beautifully for the piece, but still keeping the vibrancy of the vocal line. His performance was touching and more than a little bit moving.

Throughout the recital Jung Soo Yun was finely supported by Joseph Middleton who contributed some highly sympathetic and poetic accompaniments.

We were treated to two encores. First, in honour of Richard Tauber, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz and then a setting of the Lord's Prayer sung in Korean. Afterwards there were speeches. This was the last Richard Tauber Prize in its present format. Founded in 1950 and with a distinguished list of recipients including Christopher Ainslie, Anna Leese, Jonathan Lemalu and Simon Keenlyside, from 2013 the prize will be offered for the best interpretation of Schubert lieder as part of the Wigmore Hall / Kohn Foundation International Song Competition.

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