By Morgan Freeman. Edited by Jim Luce
New York, NY. Is it unfair to make comparisons between two Asian-American violin-soloists both born in 1988? During this last week, at Carnegie Hall, I watched Japanese-American Ryu Goto (Wiki) accompanied by a full orchestra. At (le) Poisson Rouge, I witnessed Korean-American Hahn Bin (Wiki).
Carnegie Hall was devoid of shadows, brightly lit. White and gold walls spanned multiple floors. Acoustically awesome, I would recommend seeing any performance in this theater hall. The dress code was upscale, at $70 a ticket. The crowd consisted of very few people wearing sneakers and shorts. However, everyone was allowed entrance if they had the money.
In Carnegie Hall, the highlight of the night was not the final, full orchestral performance of a Beethoven’s second Symphony. The focus was on Harvard and Julliard graduate Ryu Goto. I was informed that he played the violin with the same ferocity as Jimi Hendrix on the guitar.
Ryu appeared on stage with gleeful smugness, feigning surprise at the packed opera house. He was famous at seven, having played the Pacific Music Festival in Japan. Amazingly, Ryu is one of two famous siblings for playing the violin. Midori Goto’s own success as a musician helped launch her brother Ryu’s career as a violinist. I have a lot of respect for a mother who raised two violin prodigies.
I recognized many of the audience members from the Japanese-American Association meeting I attended two weeks ago. Japanese television was present with cameras on the balcony for Ryu’s performance.
Ryu Goto took many liberties with the classical pieces playing with the orchestra and during his solos. I observed a few musicians glaring at him, for his improvising. Missed, and added notes with a couple of odd sounding taps on the body of the violin, were passed off with Ryu’s youthful expression of defiance.
In Ryu’s hurried pace, his primary focus was making eye contact with different audience members. Ryu is a great technician when focused, but tonight the spotlight ruled him. The music came second.
A woman could never duplicate Ryu’s very male performance. Ryo Goto was excited that the audience was watching. A dark curly haired brass-playing woman, in the back of the orchestra, was crooning during Ryu’s solos. Two Japanese women on my right loved watching Ryu Goto, and; it was obvious Ryu Goto loved them right back.
Keiko Tsuyama and I entered (le) Poisson Rouge at 6pm on the Press guest list after being told the show would start at 6:30. (Le) Poisson Rouge was built with a love of aesthetics gravitating towards high-art and mysticism.
The entrance of (le) Poisson Rouge has a crookedly hung, clear, acyclic coffin filled with water and laced with chains. Houdini had escaped, leaving large goldfish to greet the patrons. The lighting and art of (le) Poisson Rouge is subtle, nothing taking too much away from anywhere else.
Large handcrafted pieces line the first room of the club. I watched as many guests rubbed the grassy animal shapes while passing down the stairs through the first gallery and into the theater area.
After sitting at a table, in the stage area, the magic of the place wore off after three separate staff members told us about their drink policy, emphatically gesturing at the two-foot banners on our table. We finished our first round of drinks, and the concert had not even begun.
(Le) Poisson Rouge quickly began losing its magic. It was now obvious: Houdini had escaped the two drink minimum harassment.
I opened the menu on the table expecting to see the drink policy in the four other languages. The cocktail list was inspired, reassuring my faith in this being a venue I would return to.
(Le) Poisson Rouge filled with an eclectic mix of people. Friendly, and well dressed, I wondered what this crowd had in common. Every member of the audience could have qualified for a gallery curator or art critic. The piano player entered from stage right. Violet and royal blue lights meshed, cutting the dark shadows of the club. The show is about to begin.
Korean born Hahn Bin received the top prize from the Korea Times at the age of five for playing the violin. I understand that Hahn Bin has been signed by Sony. And I read with interest my colleague’s description of Han Bin’s debut in Carnegie Hall (story).
Hahn Bin walked on stage, Gloomed out and serious. Hahn Bin is dark-black-lipstick, dyed-black-Mohawk, flowing monotone clothing, with high-heel boots French in origin.
Is this revitalization of Lou Reed’s Gothic-Punk-Style, from the early 70’s, after returning from Paris with black fingernail polish? Maybe Hahn Bin is one of the kids who grew up on Harry Potter, and Twilight borrowing the late 80’s style of the Goth-Industrial scene.
Dark and spooky looks good on the youthful, and currently is selling very well to the mainstream kids.
After a dramatic entrance, Hahn Bin launched into a variety of solos and a piano accompanied waltz.
Nothing was rushed in Hahn Bin’s musical sets. Dramatic pauses, unblinking stares into the sky, with a focus on posturing and outfit changes between songs made the violin performance a fun avant-garde show to witness.
When everything was over, Hahn Bin bowed, mouthed the words "thank you," and retreated out the theaters side door with his pianist and assistant. I caught a glimpse of a group of young musicians carrying their own violin cases, waiting for Hahn Bin to finish his performance.
The audience was pleased, and it was easy to see why Hahn Bin had a fan club ranging from musician to curator.
Two internationally recognized violin soloists should not be hard to compare. Watching Ryun Goto was entertaining, but witnessing Hahn Bin left me feeling like I witnessed a rare and special moment. I was able to capture it on video.
Karl Popper, great philosopher of science, divided the world into clocks and clouds. Clocks defined by exact precision and measure. Clouds defined as unpredictable, organically evolving messes.
Ryu Goto, an amazing violinist, fought being a clock throughout his entire his performance. Hahn Bin appeared as a cloud, gloomy and dark, raining music from his heart.
Photos of Hahn Bin by Morgan Freeman.