The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: This Friday at noon, technology meets Beethoven when UW-Madison pianist Kangwoo Jin plays a FREE concerto performance | March 5, 2020

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By Jacob Stockinger

This week’s FREE Friday Noon Musicale — tomorrow, March 6 — at the First Unitarian Society of Madison, 900 University Bay Drive, features an unusual concert in which classical music meets high technology.

Kangwoo Jin (below, in a photo by Steve Apps for the Wisconsin State Journal), a gifted and prize-winning pianist from South Korea, will perform the second and third movements of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58.

But instead of a second piano or a full orchestra, Jin will be accompanied by a newly developed interactive app that adjusts to Jin and allows him to play his solo part flexibly with a real orchestra accompaniment that has been recorded minus the piano part.

Jin is studying for his doctorate with UW Professors Christopher Taylor and Jessica Johnson. He will graduate this May.

Next week Jin — who has won the UW-Madison Concerto and Beethoven Competitions and who teaches at Farley’s House of Pianos, the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and the UW Continuing Education program– will open and close the UW-River Falls Piano Festival with two performances of the same Beethoven concerto with the St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra

Jin suffers from hemophilia and has to be careful about injuring himself from over-practicing and over-playing. He has a fascinating and inspiring personal story to tell. Here is a link to a story about him in the Wisconsin State Journal:

You can follow his Facebook page. And here is a link to Jin’s own website, which has more biographical information and videos:

Jin says that, in addition to the two concerto movements, he will also play several short pieces:  “Clair de Lune” (Moonlight) by Claude Debussy; the “Raindrop” Prelude by Chopin; and two song transcriptions by Franz Liszt — Schubert’s “Litany” and Schumann’s “Widmung” (Dedication).

The orchestral accompaniment for the Beethoven concerto is performed by MusAcc — an iPad app. It is an app that can customize and manipulate the audio, much like an actual instrument, in real time.  Think of it as an orchestra in a box that you can use anywhere.

Jin explains the reasons for his FUS concert, which starts at NOON (not 12:15 p.m., as it used to be) and goes to about 1 p.m.:

“Playing a concerto is not possible in that venue, so I am using a recorded file for the orchestra part,” Jin says. “My friend Yupeng Gu, who developed this audio controlling device, will conduct and control the pacing of the recording so that the sound synchronizes with my playing. It is quite incredible and will be a very interesting concert.”

“I hope this breaks the barrier of having to have a big venue and other difficulties for performing concertos, and lets local people enjoy a more accessible and diverse repertoire,” he says. “If people like it, I would like to play the whole concerto and maybe more concertos — hopefully, all five Beethoven piano concertos — this way. This is something I have not tried before, so I am excited about it.”

“People have much easier access to solo performances, but not to concertos due to many limitations,” Jin adds. “So I expect them to have a novel experience with this concert.”

In the YouTube video at the bottom, you can hear a similar performance, done with the same device, featuring a different pianist playing the first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15.


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  1. Isn’t this basically a kind of classical music/piano karaoke?

    As I mentioned above, I might be interested in hearing one such program but there is also a delight (and there has been for many decades) of hearing just the piano, which was designed for intimate and informal play.

    So I have very mixed feelings about this.


    Comment by fflambeau — March 6, 2020 @ 5:52 am

  2. This message is not intended as a public comment, but rather as an expression of thanks to Jake Stockinger for his expert handling of sensitive matters involving the health of musicians.  I was deeply impressed by the post documenting the recent passing of Barbara DeMain.  It served to notify the community around classical music of the profoundly challenging situation facing John De Main, both personally and professionally.  Today’s post about Kangwoo Jim is very much in the same vein. My own health situation prevents me from getting out much these days, so I’m especially grateful for this blog as a means of keeping up with what’s going on around town.  And I admire the care and thoughtfulness with which the news is presented.  Thank you. Johanna Fabke 


    Comment by — March 5, 2020 @ 10:47 am

  3. Oh he!! no. I hope this doesn’t end up being a another glitchy fiasco like the Great Hyper-piano disaster of 2017.

    Playing along to a recording is for practice and karaoke not for classical performance. Get a real orchestra and play with them for the actual interaction of human musicians.

    If I want a recording I’ll stay home and listen to the Beethoven concertos recorded by the great pianists and orchestras, thankyouverymuch.


    Comment by MusicalAficionado — March 5, 2020 @ 12:16 am

    • Did you read the article? The point of this performance is playing interactively with a new tech device which is the exact opposite of playing along with a recording..


      Comment by RR — March 5, 2020 @ 8:36 am

      • RR: I think you miss Aficionado’s point: he wants to hear live music and if it is any kind of mix or hybrid, he is willing to stay home and listen to his/her own recordings.

        I can understand that though I would be willing to give the hybrid one chance. Sometimes new technology does wonders, sometimes it falls flat (bad pun).


        Comment by fflambeau — March 5, 2020 @ 9:21 pm

  4. A courageous and innovative performer. Congratulations Kangwoo Jin.


    Comment by fflambeau — March 5, 2020 @ 12:12 am

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