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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major, op.61 (1806) [45:56]
Violin sonata no.7 in C minor, op.30 no.2 (1802) [27:19]
Min-Jin Kym (violin); Ian Brown (piano)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
rec. Lyndhurst Hall (Air Studios), London, 9-10 July 2006 (concerto); Walthen Hall, St Paul’s School, London, 29-30 July 2006 (sonata)
SONY CLASSICAL 88697144422 [73:15]


Experience Classicsonline

Min-Jin Kym may be a new name to many reading this review.

Actually, she is also a new name – in a quite literal sense – to me too, for when I had the great pleasure of interviewing her a decade ago for my BBC radio programme she was Min-Jin Kim (with an “i”) and I still have an autographed CD to prove it!

With a massive reserve of talent and the marketing resources of Sony Classical behind her, I suspect that Ms. Kym will not remain so comparatively little known for much longer.

The recipient of the Jascha Heifetz Society’s first ever Heifetz Prize, she comes with impeccable credentials and a host of authoritative testimonials.  Sir Georg Solti praised her “exceptional natural talent, mature musicality and mastery of the violin”, Ruggiero Ricci rates her as “the most talented violinist, both instrumentally and musically, I have ever worked with” and a reviewer in The Strad considered her “a legitimate heir to Heifetz”. Somewhat more questionably, given that there are still 92 years to go until the year 2100, she has also received a Korean award for “Most Promising Artist of the Twenty-first Century”. 

Repeated references to Heifetz might well lead one to expect the technically immaculate yet steely and Olympian – or, as his detractors might put it, cold and emotionally aloof – approach that often characterised performances by the “violinist of the century.” On the contrary, Kym, while technically entirely secure, showcases some very different musical qualities, notably a degree of warmth and humanity not usually associated with Heifetz’s recordings. 

This is, indeed, a much more ruminative and thoughtful account of the concerto than we are often offered.  Both soloist and conductor are entirely at one in a relatively spacious conception that relates the music’s benign mood to that of the composer’s contemporaneous fourth symphony and fourth piano concerto.  The superb recording establishes a beautifully-engineered balance between violin and orchestra - the Philharmonia in very fine form - so that several felicitous but often overlooked details of the score come clearly through.  As a result, one finds oneself listening to the music far more intently than one does in flashier but more superficial interpretations. 

Sony Classical appear to want to demonstrate the range of their soloist’s musicality, so instead of filling the disc with a second concerto – or perhaps Beethoven’s two relatively rarely heard Romances for violin and orchestra – they have opted for a violin sonata. 

Paired with her regular partner Ian Brown - on the day I write this, I note that they will be performing at Ilkley Concert Society - Kym tackles the comparatively turbulent op.30 no.2 with insouciance and aplomb. In the lengthy Adagio cantabile, the artists retain the warmth and gentle delicacy exhibited earlier in the concerto. 

All in all, this is a superb disc that will give much pleasure to anyone looking for a modern recording of these works to add to their collection.

Do not, by the way, be fooled by the CD’s front cover that shows Ms. Kym with an impassive, emotionless and Heifetz-like demeanour.  If you flip over the jewel case, you will find a happy, laughing and charming image that gives a far more accurate visual impression of the overall tone of this very welcome new release.

Rob Maynard



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