Sunmi Chang and Clara Yang Celebrate the Maternal on ‘Mother Tales’

This remarkable recital is inspired by “all those who have had a profound influence and nurturing presence in the lives of others”

By Laurence Vittes | From the March-April 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

Sunmi Chang tears into a remarkable recital inspired by “all those who have had a profound influence and nurturing presence in the lives of others,” which begins with Florence Price’s kaleidoscopic Fantasia No. 1 in G minor, like Ravel’s Tzigane in its demonstration of the violinist’s art, with its curious last-minute reference to the opening of Beethoven’s last violin sonata. Chang brings a more classical tone to Gabriela Lena Frank’s addicting Sueños de Chambi, musical interpretations of seven photographs from Peruvian photographer Martín Chambi’s glass negatives of indigenous Andean cultures. As Frank responds with a wonderfully fluent and event-filled narrative lightly but delightfully colored by ethnic influences, Chang and Yang navigate with fine silences poised between the exhilarating musical waves.


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Mother Tales: Florence Price, Gabriela Lena Frank, Liliya Ugay, and Amy Beach, Sunmi Chang, violin; Clara Yang, piano (Navona Records)

The title tracks by Liliya Ugay express the creative pressures faced by balancing motherhood with life as a professional composer. In “croon,” which she describes as a warm embrace of “typical motherhood routines,” she sings an at-times nightmarish, sadly consoling lullaby. In “perpetual delights,” the duo brings alive the joy of children’s toys that leads to the innocence of sleep.

Florence Price, Fantasie No. 1 in G Minor, Sunmi Chang, Clara Yang

In Amy Beach’s very large, powerful Sonata, Chang produces a warm, dusky sound on her 1903 Giulio Degani that matches beautifully the dark sound of Yang’s piano, and together they bask in the music’s autumnal tones and melodies that could be Brahms tempered by Rachmaninoff. After Yang plunges darkly into the third movement, their handling of the fugue is breathtaking, and Chang then ratchets up for the finale. The performance does not have Joseph Silverstein’s casual virtuosity in his 1977 recording, nor the same ferocious sense of dialogue with Gilbert Kalish, but it is passionately triumphant at the end.