BBC Radio 3

(…) There are two pianos on this large stage now ready for Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos with soloists – a combination of mentor and pupil – the legendary Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich and the German-born pianist Shin-Heae Kang. The scores are heady cocktails of Poulenc’s sparkling written brilliance, a guest appearance by his beloved Mozart, the sound of a gamelan, some lush romantic harmonies and always overflowing with ideas, teasing the audience and thrusting them straight into the action. (…)

A truly brilliant conversation between two pianists and the orchestra – Poulenc´s Concerto for Two Pianos performed by Martha Argerich and Shin-Heae Kang with the NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Manze (…) and these two pianists who have such a rapport hadn’t finished their entertainment for the evening. (…)

An encore from Martha Argerich and Shin-Heae Kang getting the audience in the Kuppelsaal swaying to the rhythms of Milhaud’s Brazileira from his Suite Scaramouche. And as the applause carried on they returned to the stage this time inspired by the sounds of the Russian Easter. (…)

The most delicate and charming of Sugar Plum Fairies – Martha Argerich and Shin-Heae Kang treated the audience in the Kuppelsaal in Hanover to final encore back in January. And before that they played a thrilling picture of the Russian Easter with traditional Russian charms and bells Rachmaninov´s Easter, the final movement from his Suite No. 1 in G minor.


Shin-Heae Kang impresses as a pianist of considerable technical accomplishment, intent on placing a personal stamp on everything she plays. The Grandes etudes de Paganini are the centrepiece of her recording, and throughout Kang maintains admirable textural clarity. She never forces. ‘La campanella’ is masterfully paced. The E major, No 4, evokes the precision of a fine jeweller in charming music-box effects. The ubiquitous 24th Caprice is refreshingly light and crisp.

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It is not often that you open up a CD case and find out that the pianist has been personally endorsed by none other than Martha Argerich – as has this one! I had heard of Shin-Heae Kang earlier but had not heard any of her recordings, so I was interested to hear how she plays.

The first item on the disc is the extremely famous and very often heard last of the three Liebesträume. There is a nonchalance and restraint to the playing here. Despite the familiarity of the piece, there are details here which are not often heard. It is a performance of average length in terms of playing time but in terms of feeling, it is far from average.

Next we have the six Paganini études which include the infamous La campanella with its huge leaps and repeated notes. Anyway, the first of these pieces is an exercise in tremolandos. Ms. Kang copes with this with considerable aplomb, making it sound easy. Her technique of pulling back the tempo slightly at the end of phrases might annoy the purists but in this work (and elsewhere on the disc) it works extremely effectively. The clarity in her right hand makes many details in the score stand out, especially between 4:20 and about 4:50. The second etude is marked Andante capriccioso, and here is especially capricious! Again, the clarity is excellent and the pedalling is, helpfully, very restrained. I like the clever and witty way she ends the phrases – it is supposed to be capricious after all. Lovely stuff.

Pianists often use La campanella as a virtuoso showpiece. Here, as earlier, there is a restraint to the playing which is exemplary throughout. The right hand is particularly clear; this makes the piece sound even more difficult than it actually is. Kang does not slow down at the end of phrases to the same extent as elsewhere – in this case it is the right thing to do. The ending of the piece is suitably powerful, very fast and marvellously done. The fourth of the set, written on one stave, is another witty and very fast little work. I like the way the pianist projects the base notes with her left hand, making it sound like a ping pong ball bouncing from one side of a table to the other. The judicious use of pedal really helps. The ending is taken at a tremendous pace, with a rather well placed ritardando as the piece draws to a conclusion.

The fifth étude, La chasse, features imitations of flutes and some fiendish fingerwork. None of this presents any problems for the pianist. The piece is dispatched very quickly, efficiently and wonderfully. The final étude is the famous theme and variations, used by numerous other composers. Here there is much witty playing. The theme is modified and enhanced by the use of ten fingers rather than four strings on a violin. The speed of some of the playing here is amazing but it fits well with the nature of the piece. Variation 5 (starting at 1:53) is especially interesting, and the clarity is amazing. Ms. Kang also observes the hairpins and rinforzando markings in variation 7; that is not often done, at least to this extent. The work gains in difficulty as it progresses but this poses no problems, and the conclusion is deftly handed. This is an absolutely brilliant recording of these six homages to Paganini, full musical insight and clever playing.

Next comes the famous D flat major Consolation No. 3. This is mesmerizingly played, full of nuance, peace, feeling and depth. It is given here an absolutely stunning performance. There is an abrupt change of mood for the following work, the so-called Dante Sonata, which I have heard many times on many recordings, and several times live. This is a fantastic rendition.

The opening is suitably scary, with its depiction of the descent into Hell. Despite the somewhat dark and bleak nature of the work, there are parts which are beautiful. There is some wonderful phrasing and control in the short Andante section at about 6:10, and some truly magnificent pointing up of the bass notes before the horrendously difficult section at 8:30 (where the right hand plays a myriad of detail while the left hand leaps about) before the sinister music returns.

One thing which is different in this recording is the shortness and power of the attack on the chords. Many are struck very hard, and afterwards the sound dies away very quickly. This is especially clear in the senza rallentare section, where the bass chords are struck very sharply. This works very well here, and in the few bars before the Tempo rubato e molto ritenuto at 12:40. The music sounds like it leads very naturally into that part of the work. This section is magnificently played, the pedalling is spot on and the atmosphere of sadness and slight spookiness is perfect.

The short Andante is enthrallingly played before the peace of these few bars is dispelled by some barnstorming virtuosity. The final three minutes of the work are marked with a variety of tempo directions and, on the whole, fast in pace. The playing is also brilliant, and the work thunders to a noisy conclusion. This is a super performance of this piece. There is much interest and shading in Ms. Kang’s playing, and the whole thing holds together magnificently.

We then have one of Liszt’s numerous transcriptions, one of the most famous: Schumann’s Widmung, which he originally wrote for his wife, Clara. I learned this piece fairly recently and I really do envy the way Ms. Kang is able to play it. There is a fluidity to the opening which is played in a way I have never heard it done. The central section flows very naturally from the opening. The reprise of the music from the start, when it returns, is suitably impassioned, and the work ends happily.

The final work on this recording is the wonderful Rhapsodie espagnole, well known but not that often recorded. That is a shame because it is a splendid piece; I have liked it for years. Speedwise, it is again taken at an average sort of pace (lasting about 13 and a half minutes). I really like the way Ms. Kang slows down before the start of the Jota aragonesa tune (at about 4:55). This is not something I have heard in any other performance. Here it works really well, and eases you gently into the following development of this theme. There is some really lovely playing at 5”35 (marked con grazia in the score) with a sense of hushed reverence. Again here, the fluidity of Ms. Kang’s playing is very apparent, and the clarity and intelligence of her playing is marvellous. Even the most difficult figurations in the piece are dealt with effortlessly in this performance. The last fourfive pages, containing some very tricky writing, are played amazingly well. This is a super performance of a splendid piece by a spectacularly talented pianist. I have a new favourite recording of this work!

The case is plastic and cardboard bonded together, probably environmentally friendly. The booklet is also stuck inside, so it is impossible to lose it. Ms. Kang’s notes are well written and interesting.

I would definitely put this as one of the top Liszt recordings that I have heard over the last couple of years. There is some utterly beautiful and intelligent playing here, and some splendid virtuosity.

Ms. Kang certainly deserves the attention that she has received, and is clearly an artist to watch out for. I will be watching for news of her upcoming releases, since she clearly has plenty to say.

She has a superb technique and innate musicality. Buy this disc!


Beim Aufschlagen des Booklets stößt man auf eine handschriftliche Charakterisierung der außergewöhnlichen Qualitäten der Pianistin Shin-Heae Kang, die aus der Feder von keiner geringeren stammt, als der legendären Pianistin Martha Argerich. Und die vorliegende Einspielung bildet eine eindrucksvolle Affirmation dieser Einschätzung. Kang beweist darin eine meisterhafte Virtuosität, was besonders in Liszts Etüden auf Paganini zum Ausdruck kommt. Im Rausche seiner Paganini-Faszination entstanden, gehören diese zu den anspruchsvollsten Werken der Klavierliteratur, mehr noch: Sie bilden seit Generationen einen Prüfstein für Virtuosen. Kang meistert diese Herausforderung bravourös. Beispielhaft ist dabei die Etüde Nr. 3 La Campanella, in der die Pianistin die vielfältigen Liszt´schen Raffinessen an virtuoser Klavierkunst zum Leuchten bringt. Neben der Virtuosität ist ihr Spiel aber auch in emotional ausdrucksvollen Stücken schlichtweg vorbildlich. In der Consolation Nr. 3 offenbart die Pianistin ein sensibles Gespür für gefühlsbetonte Passagen. Die dissonanten Eintrübungen vereinen sich mit dem zarten Spielfluss auf einzigartige Weise. Beim Zusammenwirken der verschiedenen Harmonien scheint der Pianistin hier quasi die Quadratur des Kreises zu gelingen: Sie wirken präzise abgegrenzt, zugleich aber in unendlichen Schattierungen ineinander zerfließend.

Eine vielseitige und in höchstem Maße beeindruckende Einspielung!

Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung

Ein bescheidenes Multitalent – Pianistin Shin-Heae Kang gibt Neujahrskonzert mit Martha Argerich und der NDR Radiophilharmonie im Kuppelsaal

Seit frühester Kindheit dominiert das Instrument ihr Leben: Die 32-jährige Shin-Heae Kang ist heute eine gefeierte Pianistin. Am Freitag, 10. Januar, tritt sie mit der Starpianistin Martha Argerich im Kuppelsaal in Hannover auf – in der Stadt, in der sie bereits als Jugendliche an der Musikhochschule studierte. Dass Kang das Klavierspielen überhaupt erlernte, war nur ein Zufall Können bescheidene Menschen erfolgreich sein? Shin-Heae Kang kann es. Die Pianistin gewann zahlreiche Musikpreise und Klavierwettbewerbe, erhielt Stipendien von unterschiedlichen Institutionen. Seit der Kindheit gibt sie Konzerte, am Freitag tritt sie mit der Starpianistin Martha Argerich und der NDR Radiophilharmonie im Kuppelsaal in Hannover auf. Doch wenn sie über diese Erfolge spricht, sagt Kang Sätze wie „Das hat sich dann ergeben“ und „Dann ist das einfach so passiert“. Dabei kokettiert sie nicht, ein schüchternes Lächeln lässt ehrliche Bescheidenheit vermuten.

Die Beziehung zum Instrument begann früh, schon als Zweijährige spielte Kang nach Gehör. „Dass es dazu kam war nur ein Zufall. Wir hatten zu Hause gar kein richtiges Klavier“, erzählt sie. Denn ihre Eltern, die als Studenten aus Südkorea nach Kiel kamen, spielen keine Instrumente. Kangs Vater ist Ernährungswissenschaftler, die Mutter Politologin. Bei einem vorweihnachtlichen Besuch im Einkaufszentrum aber sei Kang so fasziniert von einem Spielzeugklavier gewesen, dass die Eltern es ihr zu Weihnachten schenkten.

Schnell bemerkten sie das Talent der Tochter, die Melodien mühelos nachspielen konnte. Mit drei Jahren erhielt sie Klavierunterricht, mit fünf gab sie ihr erstes Konzert, mit sechs begann sie das Vorstudium an der Musikhochschule in Lübeck – neben der Grundschule. Ab 2001 studierte die damals 14-Jährige an der Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien in Hannover bei Professor Karl-Heinz Kämmerling – weiterhin neben der Schule. „Ich wollte unbedingt Abitur machen“, sagt sie. Und das tat sie, am naturwissenschaftlichen Max-Planck-Gymnasium in Kiel. Mit Auszeichnung.

Zahlreiche Konzerte und Wettbewerbe, die Schule und das Klavierstudium lasteten Kang noch immer nicht aus. Sie trainierte Taekwondo und war Landesmeisterin in Rhythmischer Sportgymnastik. Zudem spielte sie Geige und Querflöte und begann als Zehnjährige ein zweites Vorstudium an der Musikhochschule Lübeck, ein Gitarrenstudium. Gemeinsam mit ihrem älteren Bruder gab sie Gitarrenkonzerte und gewann mit dem Instrument beim Bundeswettbewerb Jugend musiziert. Heute spielt sie die Gitarre nicht mehr – aus einem banalen Grund: „Für die Gitarre braucht man lange Fingernägel. Beim Klavier ist das fatal, weil es klackert.“ Die Hobbys habe sie sich selbst ausgesucht, sagt Kang, Druck von den Eltern habe es nicht gegeben.

Kangs Leidenschaft zeigt sich vor allem dann, wenn sie von ihren Lieblingskomponisten spricht. Einer davon ist Franz Liszt, dessen Werke die Pianistin auf ihrer im vergangenen Jahr erschienenen Debüt-CD “Kaleidoscope” spielt. „Mich beeindruckt nicht nur die Musik, sondern auch seine Persönlichkeit. Er war besessen vom Klavier“, sagt Kang. Auch Martha Argerich ist für sie Vorbild und Mentorin. Andere Klavierlehrer hatten Kang genau gezeigt, wie sie das Instrument spielen soll. „Bei Martha Argerich war es das Gegenteil“, sagt Kang. „Sie sagte: ,Ich kann dir nicht sagen, wie du spielen sollst. Du musst deine eigene Intuition finden.’“ Und obwohl sie bei allen Lehrern viel gelernt habe, sei das der wichtigste Rat gewesen – für die Musik und für das Leben.