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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Classical music Q&A: French pianist Philippe Bianconi explains why his favorite Beethoven piano concerto is No. 4 – which he performs this weekend with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and conductor John DeMain.

March 26, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

This weekend the acclaimed French pianist Philippe Bianconi, who took a silver medal at the Van Cliburn International Competition in 1985, returns to Madison to perform with the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

The program includes American composer Kevin Puts’ “Inspiring Beethoven”; Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58, which is famous for the interplay between the piano and the orchestra; and Richard Strauss’ tone poem “Ein Heldenleben” (A Hero’s Life) with solos by the new MSO concertmaster Naha Greenholtz (below).

Performances are in Overture Hall on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday night at 8 p.m.; and Sunday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $13.50 to $78.50. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141. Or visit:

For more information about the concert and soloists, including videos, videos, visit the MSO at :

To read or download program notes by J. Michael Allsen, visit:

Bianconi, who last turned in an enthralling, rhapsodic performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini” two years ago with the MSO, and who just started a U.S. tour, recently gave The Ear an email interview:

Many consider Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 the best of his five piano concertos and perhaps the greatest piano concerto ever composed. Why do you think that is, and what speaks to the public so strongly about it?

Well, I also know a lot of people whose favorite Beethoven piano concerto is No. 5, the so-called “Emperor.” The Fifth is a larger concerto in scope. It is really majestic and has more brilliant virtuosity. And it has a gorgeous slow movement too. I can see why many people love it: It is a great piece!

But No. 4 is a more intimate concerto and a very poetic piece. (See the video at bottom.) The poetry you find in the slow movement of No. 5 pervades the entire Fourth, from beginning to end. The themes have such a melodic quality that really touches the heart.

It does have its share of virtuosity, but most of the time it is not virtuosity per se. Most of the runs and arpeggios are much more integrated into the orchestral texture. They are like arabesques floating around the main themes played by the orchestra, which gives the piece its unique luminous quality. I guess people who favor more intimate, chamber music-like concertos over bombastic pieces prefer No. 4 of course.

How do you yourself place it among other piano concertos and Beethoven’s work in general?

It is definitely my favorite Beethoven concerto for the reasons I explained above. Even though I love Nos. 1, 3 and 5 for different reasons, No. 4 is the one that touches me the most.

There is also the short but incredible slow movement with its opposition between the ruthless statements of the strings and the pleading cantilena of the piano.

There are so many beautiful moments in this piece, and one of my favorites is the end of the first movement after the cadenza, when the orchestra comes back: to me this is some of the most poetic and soothing music ever written.

I love the big romantic concertos like Rachmaninoff’s, but I place them in a different category. I place the Fourth by Beethoven (below) among the most beautiful concertos ever written, together with the late Mozart concertos, Schumann A minor and the two Brahms concertos.

This is a return appearance for you in Madison. What do you want to say about playing with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and John DeMain and about Madison audiences?

This is my fourth appearance with the Madison Symphony and my third time with John DeMain (below).

I feel like I have developed a special relationship over the years with that orchestra and I’m always very excited to come back. And I’ve always received a very warm and enthusiastic welcome from the audience.

From the very first time, I have been impressed with the quality of the orchestra and I love working with John DeMain. He is the kind of conductor who makes a soloist feel very secure and he is such a wonderful musician. I am so looking forward to playing this magnificent concerto with him.

Do you know the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4, and do you prefer No. 4 or No. 5?

How do you rank No. 4 among Beethoven’s five piano concertos and among all piano concertos?

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