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Denis Sung-Hô, Guitar

- Classical and Cultural Connections

Denis Sung-Hô, Guitar
Distinctive Debuts

Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
(Weill Hall Website)

Raechel Alexander, Manager, Public Affairs

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 22, 2005

Denis Sung-Hô, born in Seoul, South Korea, won first prize in a Belgian talent competition at age 14, and, at age 19, he studies with Alberto Ponce in Paris. His major guitar training was with Odair Assad, and he also studies under Sergio Assad in Brussels. He has appeared as an orchestral guest soloist and in chamber recitals around the globe and gave a live recital on Belgian classical radio. Denis Sung-Hô was chosen as a Rising Star in Brussels for the current season and has scheduled concerts in Vienna, Salzburg, and Paris. (Program Notes).


Manuel Ponce (1882-1948): Sonata III (1928), Allegro moderato, Chanson, Allegro ma non troppo.

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976): Nocturnal After John Dowland: Reflections on “Come, Heavy Sleep”, Op. 70 (1963).

William Walton (1902-1983): Selections from Five Bagatelles (1971), Allegro, Lento, Alla Cubana.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959): Selections from Five Preludes (1940), Prelude No. 1 in E Minor, Prelude No. 3 in E Minor, Prelude No. 4 in E Minor.

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992): Invierno Porteño (1968), arr. Baltazar Benitez.

Sérgio Assad (b. 1952): Fantasia Carioca (1993).

Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983): Sonata, Op. 47 (1976), Escordio, Scherzo, Canto, Finale.

Denis Sung-Hô, a young guitarist from South Korea, who plays with a Spanish accent and speaks with a French accent, will be an interesting new soloist on the music scene, after his charming debut tonight at Weill Recital Hall. The Ponce Sonata III, at times a harmonious serenade, and at times a complicated and abstract piece, was always pleasant and soothing. There were decided Latin influences, and Mr. Sung-Hô handled the rapid fingering with aplomb.

The contemporary Britten work included some soft raindrop effects, and I had hoped for a more energetic piece to follow the Ponce. However, the dark, dissonant, and repetitive patterns exuded an existential and eery quality that seemed to emanate throughout the Hall. The three Walton Bagatelles fused classical, Latin (Cuban), and contemporary sounds into dance-like passages.

The second half of the program was more confident and engaging, and Mr. Sung-Hô seemed to be more relaxed, knowing that the audience was approving. The three Villa-Lobos Preludes were contemplative, casual, and classical. My favorite presentation was Piazzolla’s Invierno Porteno, or Winter, from his Four Buenos Aires Seasons. Piazzolla’s works are frequently reviewed in this magazine, and Mr. Sung-Hô seemed to capture the tonality, while sometimes missing the passion and lyricism of a well-known Argentine work.

Mr. Sung-Hô paid homage to Assad, his mentor, with Fantasia Carioca, another recent work. This was a difficult piece with which to connect, with its complicated mechanics and dour dissonance. I had expected Ginastera’s Sonata to emanate with some sense of Argentine Tango or emotional energy, but, instead, its esoteric style included percussive thumps on the wooden guitar followed later by a finale of rippling flourishes. Denis Sung-Hô has promise and skill. I hope that future recitals are more eclectic, as solo guitar recitals can generate rapturous and romantic music, as well as the thoughtful and intellectual pieces presented in this exceptional debut.

A lovely buffet of fruits, wines, and other delectables was served in Carnegie Hall’s Rohatyn Room, following this debut, courtesy of the artist. The audience was quite appreciative of Mr. Sung-Hô’s generosity.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at