Press


Ah Young Hong: A Breath Upwards CD review from Opera News (September 2018 — Vol. 83, No. 3)
"Babbitt composed the work for Bethany Beardslee, whose voice is heard on the tape with the synthesized sounds. In this new recording from Innova, soprano Ah Young Hong effectively matches Beardslee’s timbre so the sections where the live and recorded voices have interplay provide the intended echo effect. One set of notes on the piece says that it requires a singer “with perfect pitch, outstanding command of rhythm, and total control of dynamic contrasts.” Hong clearly has all these—and an unfailingly lovely sound to boot. The piece is extraordinarily difficult. (Beardslee’s autobiography is called I Sang the Unsingable.) Hong’s unexpectedly sweet-toned traversal is on par with Beardslee’s fierce original, which is saying a lot. It’s good to be able to revisit this intriguing work, courtesy Hong’s fearlessness and consummate artistry.

Hong also performs A Breath Upwards, a new song cycle for soprano, clarinet, horn and viola by Michael Hersch (b. 1971). ...Even at its most astringent, Hersch’s music always has something compelling and insightful to say. This piece is as vital and original as any of today’s music." —Opera News
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cortex and ankle CD review by Colin Clarke from Fanfare Magazine (Nov/Dec 2018)
"The quality and sheer purity of Hong’s voice remains constant. Both works were commissioned by and written for the Ensemble Klang, whose members perform with astonishing virtuosity and concentration. This type of most demanding music is clearly what they live and breathe."

"Hong is, once more, stunning in her delivery, able to transcend the loudest, most grinding onslaughts from her colleagues."

"Modal references in the final movement reflect a time before tonality and invite one to wonder what Hong would be like in the music of, say, Machaut."
Fanfare Magazine
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"portrayed with soul-baring intensity by the fearless soprano Ah Young Hong ... absolutely riveting ... One could not imagine a more brilliant performance."
The Chicago Tribune
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"the definitive performer for the opera ... a remarkable display ... Her vocal musicianship is a mastery of breath control and phrase articulation ... Hong’s dramatic presence astounds at every turn." —Utah Review
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"The soprano Ah Young Hong ... delivered the eerie texts ... with expressive intensity. The vocal line unfolded over the jagged, spare and haunting textures of viola, clarinet and horn. Claustrophobic harmonies underpinned with sparse insistence the line: 'So we had to go on the open edge/one at a time.' Wordless interludes illustrated verses by Ezra Pound, a flicker of a chorale evoking the text from his 'Cantos:' “Borne into the tempest, black cloud wrapping their wings.” Clarinet, horn and viola fragments grew increasingly agitated in another of Dante’s texts, culminating in a dense outburst for the soprano’s apocalyptic declamation of 'Now you can understand.' ... Ms. Hong vividly conveyed the contrasting moods of selections from Kurtag’s 'Kafka Fragments' — expressionistic settings of German texts from Kafka’s letters and diaries. She shaded her voice with myriad hues: lovely and clear in 'The Good March in Step' and grittier in the zigzag vocal line of 'Hiding Places' ... Ms. Hong also sang with expressive fervor in Milton Babbitt’s 'Philomel,' a dramatic monologue based on Ovid’s myth of Philomena. Synthesized sounds blended evocatively with a live and recorded soprano in this startling work, the intensity heightened by the surround-sound effect from multiple speakers." —The New York Times
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"Hong’s voice is crystalline and pure" —Jazz Weekly
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“Soprano Ah Young Hong delivered a tour de force … there was no difficult in understanding Hong’s immersion in every syllable, her ability to communicate the essence – the soul, if you will – of Sorescu’ searing poetry. She often produced a kind of disembodied sound, appropriately enough, the tone filed down to a pure, delicate stream of sound. There was plenty of force as well, a force that seemed to spring from the most naked and raw of feelings. The soprano’s uncanny vocalism was matched by remarkable acting skills; she seemed unfazed by having to move large scaffolding and other props around the stage periodically.” —The Baltimore Sun
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“… exceptional cognitive command of the music … “ —The Philadelphia Inquirer
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“glistening and resilient” —The Washington Post


“Ah [Young] Hong (soprano) brings an intense quality to Sentirete Una Canzonetta by Tarquinio Merula; the more rustic Se l’aura spira tutta vezzosa draws on Hong’s vocal expertise…” —The Whole Note
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"... transfixing ... Hong also gave a commanding performance of Kurtág’s 'Kafka Fragments." —The New Yorker
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"... Hong’s incredible voice, from its growly bottom end to pure high notes that are shrill yet warm, and never grating." —The Whole Note
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"As the publicity text for this release promises, soprano Ah Young Hong’s 'fervour, flawless accuracy and riveting tone convey the myriad shards and flavours of the music with apparent ease and assurance.' Her voice is again balanced as an equal amongst the other instruments ... Sharply etched and potently communicative, this is a recording that no fan of challenging modern vocal music should be without ... you will find this production sticks around in the memory for longer than you might expect." —MusicWeb International
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"Clad in a white, hospital-like gown, the petite soprano was a fearless presence, wielding her unamplified, bell-like voice like a weaponized instrument. Hong delivered a tour de force vocal performance in this almost unfathomably difficult music—attacking the dizzying high notes with surprising power, racing through the rapid-fire desperation of agitated sections, and bringing a numbed, toneless sprechstimme and contralto-like darkness to the low tessitura ...Yet in addition to the daunting vocal demands, of Hersch’s score, Hong brought blazing intensity to the crucial theatrical element as well. There was always a plaintive human vulnerability to her presence, whether she was sobbing, screaming, moaning in pain or pulling down the long, diaphanous curtains, and wrapping herself in them like a shroud."
Chicago Classical Review
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"Soprano Ah Young Hong is a wonder. She has a remarkable sound and seemingly limitless technique. Her performance of the two daunting works on this disc, Milton Babbitt’s Philomel and Michael Hersch’s a breath upwards, is nothing short of breathtaking." —Burning Ambulance
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"Hong is a phenomenal vocalist ... Her pitch and timbre control are outstanding and the dramatic verve she brings to the music is exactly what is needed to put these works in an ideal place ... landmark performances of two landmark works..." —Gapplegate Classical Modern Review
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"Hong explores vocal works by composers Milton Babbitt and Michael Hersch in this striking release on the Innova Recordings label. In the works of the two contemporary American composers, she conveys the feeling that drives the often complex modern music ... an intense musical experience ... Her voice can pierce or whisper as it breathes life into the spare modernity of the music. She distills the emotion and delivers it along with the notes, by turns eerie, agitated, dreamy. Hong's superb vocal facility, along with the able instrumental accompaniment, highlights the sheer beauty of the works while drawing the listener into the emotional heart of the music on a grand scale." —Art and Culture Maven
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"The two-act monodrama, which received its searing premiere on Wednesday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, is about illness and death ... A traumatized silence clung to the Fishman Space auditorium after the last line sung by the soprano Ah Young Hong, the opera’s blazing, lone star: “Terrible is the passage/ Into the fold/ Both for man/ And /Animal.” When the lights came up again, Ms. Hong was in tears ... A soul-baring, courageous performance … Ms. Hong’s texts are inner musings, delivered with an extraordinarily concentrated, caustically honest yet pure voice, devoid of almost any vibrato, except in occasional combustive outbursts high in her register. Often her voice is trailed by one or two instruments, a mere half tone apart, conveying the sense of her character still being in this world but no longer of it ... Mr. Hersch set up the expectation of reassurance or at the very least predictability: a lilting motion, a steady pace, a familiar harmonic sequence. Each one turned treacherous, the momentum hitting an impasse, the harmonies muddied by dissonant intrusions. The listener, then, remained as unmoored as Ms. Hong as she continued her precarious descent with little to hold on to but a fierce will to live." —The New York Times
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“The performance’s live singer, soprano Ah Young Hong, matched Beardslee well, in a remarkably assured performance that made her the concert’s primary heroine. She also sang pop songs by Babbitt, Kern, and Sondheim with great expression and instinctive Broadway style.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
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“… a triumph … tonal gleam filled the hall beautifully” —The Baltimore Sun


“Ah Young Hong’s performance is simply magnificent. Sometimes clear and delicate as the sound of flute, sometimes deep and mellow like the sound of cello, her voice fills the church reaching the highest.” —Phindie
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