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Kyung-Wha Chung (violin) - The Complete Warner Recordings
rec. 1978-2000
WARNER CLASSICS 2564614053 [11 CDs + 1 DVD]

One of my most treasured LPs is Kyung-Wha Chung’s recording of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Violin Concertos, which she recorded in June 1970 with the LSO and André Previn. It was her debut release for a newly acquired Decca contract. That same year she had deputized for an indisposed Itzhak Perlman in a performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the LSO and Previn, and the success and rave reviews garnered from that catapulted her to fame overnight.

Born in Seoul, Korea in 1948, she can claim a good pedigree, having studied at the Juilliard with Ivan Galamian, who could count amongst his illustrious pupils, Michael Rabin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. There was also pedagogical input from Joseph Szigeti, Josef Gingold, Szymon Goldberg and Paul Makanowitzky, to whom she dedicated her recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. In 1967 she took joint first prize together with Pinchas Zukerman in the prestigious Leventritt Competition. In 1988, she signed an exclusive contract with EMI, the fruits of which are the ten albums we have here. In 2005 she sustained an injury to her left index finger, and this temporarily halted her career. Yet through determination and vision, she made a welcome return to the London concert platform in December 2014 with a recital at the Royal Festival Hall.

The ten EMI albums plus DVD are supplemented by a 1978 recording, made for EMI whilst she was still under the aegis of Decca, of piano trios by Mendelssohn and Schumann. There her partners are Paul Tortelier and Andre Previn. Each CD is housed in a card sleeve displaying the original artwork. The accompanying booklet notes, in English, French and German, written by Ariane Todes provide a biographical portrait of the violinist. They discuss the works on offer and quote contemporary reviews. This release follows hot on the heels of a 20 disc set of Chung’s Decca recordings which was issued last year.

I have always admired Chung’s Beethoven Concerto, which she recorded for Decca with the Vienna Philharmonic under Kiril Kondrashin at the Sofiensaal, Vienna in September 1979. The performance from Warner emanates from live concerts, given on three consecutive days at the Grosse Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam in November-December 1989. She is partnered this time by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Klaus Tennstedt. Comparing the two readings, I noticed that the timings for each movement are almost identical. Also, both are interpretively very similar, with the Kreisler cadenzas being used in both instances. The only real difference is the more immediate sound quality of the live performance, where only slight audience 'presence' is perceptible. The DVD documents this performance or, more accurately, is cobbled together from performances on 30 September and 1 December 1989, according to the booklet. Although looking slightly dated, the camera angles are judiciously placed, and it makes for an interesting visual experience. The CD coupling is the ubiquitous Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1, here recorded in the studio in 1990, again with Klaus Tennstedt, this time directing the London Philharmonic. It’s a riveting account, where drama and lyricism go hand in hand.

Surprisingly, Chung waited until 2000 before she committed her interpretation of the Brahms Concerto to disc, and a fine one it is too. Technically dazzling, her playing is distinguished by pristine intonation throughout. The first movement has profound nobility and spirituality. Though not credited, she plays the Joachim cadenza. The exquisite oboe solo which opens the Adagio evokes a serenity, matched by the fervent expressiveness of the violin line. The finale is rhythmically propulsive and delivered with verve and vigour. The coupling on this disc is a live performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, an edge of the seat performance of outstanding passion and power.

In the Brahms Sonatas for Violin and Piano, Chung and Frankl seem perfectly attuned to one another, matching phrasing and dynamics. Op. 78 and Op. 100 are the most successful, with the performers responding sensitively to the lyricism of the scores. The second sonata is donned with a pastoral flavour. The third sonata, Op. 108 is cast on a larger scale, and calls for more drama and passion. This is where I have a preference for Perlman and Ashkenazy. Perlman’s tone has more lustre and bite, a positive attribute in a work such as this.

It was with Sir Georg Solti that Chung previously recorded both Bartok concertos for Decca. This later recording of No. 2 was set down in 1990, in Cheltenham’s Town Hall. Rattle excels in this music, and is not as driven as Solti, but takes a more relaxed view. Another positive factor in this later recording is the more balanced perspective between violin and orchestra, where the soloist is not too forwardly projected. Chung really gets inside this music and gives an idiomatic reading. The concerto is paired with the two Rhapsodies, which provide a pleasing filler.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a work I could well live without, so I’m probably not the best person to offer an opinion on this recording. To me, though, it is stylishly played, and feels spontaneous and fresh. It's very much cast in a traditional mould. The orchestra is the St Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, an American chamber group, and very fine they are too. Chung directs. Teaming up with Riccardo Muti and the Philadelphia Orchestra, the violinist offers captivating accounts of the Dvořák Concerto and the Romance in F minor, Op. 11, where her warm luscious tone is a positive asset. Muti proves a sympathetic soul-mate. In ‘Souvenirs’, Chung offers a selection of favourite violin pieces, accompanied by Itamar Golan. I particularly enjoyed the Dvořák Four Romantic Pieces, Op. 75, hauntingly beautiful and played with a burning intensity. The Schubert ‘Ave Maria’ in the Wilhelmj arrangement, is one of the finest I’ve heard and ranks alongside Heifetz, who edited this arrangement. The three Kreisler pieces are imbued with Viennese charm and allure.

Chung reunites with her two siblings for the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1, plus a selection of Beethoven Trios. The Tchaikovsky is a spacious heart-on-sleeve reading. There is considerable freshness and breadth in a performance that brims over with Russian emotion and passion. The Variations of the second movement are well-characterized. The only drawback in this particular recording is that the violinist does tend to dominate. The short single movement Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1 is a student work from 1923, and is an amalgam of styles. The performance runs the full gamut of emotions, tinged with nostalgia, apprehension, restlessness, and an underlying unease with a bit of lush romanticism thrown in for good measure. The Mendelssohn and Schumann Trios with Tortelier and Previn from 1978, taped before Chung’s EMI contract, were presumably recorded for contractual reasons by that label, as the cellist was an EMI artist. I have known them since the days of LP, and they are very potent. It’s appreciated that they have been included.

There is no shortage of first class recordings of the Beethoven Piano Trios: Zukerman,  du Pré  and Barenboim, the Beaux Arts Trio and Perlman, Harrell and Ashkenazy are three cycles that immediately spring to mind. The Chung Trio certainly hold their own in a competitive field. They bring to these great works brilliance, refinement and a wealth of musical insights. The engineers have managed to attain an ideal balance between the instruments. No one player dominates, yet each is allowed their moment in the sun. For me, the Archduke has to be one of the finest committed to disc, for its distinguished musicianship.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Michael Cookson

Contents List
 
CD 1
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 [33.24]
Romance in F minor, Op. 11 [13.00]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
rec. 1988, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, USA
[46.24]

CD 2
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 [44.41]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 26* [25.05]
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
*London Philharmonic Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
rec. 29, 30 Nov, 1 Dec 1989, Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (live recording); *8-10 May 1990, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, UK
[69.57]

CD 3
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor [38.00]
Rhapsody No.1* [10.11]
Rhapsody No.2* [11.00]
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle
rec. July 1990, Cheltenham Town Hall; *May and June 1992, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK
[59.23]

CD 4
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78 [28.00]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A, Op. 100 [19.43]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 [20.10]
Peter Frankl (piano)
rec. Sept 1995, St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK
[67.58]

CD 5
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Humoreske in G flat, Op. 101 No. 7 (arr. August Wilhelmj)
Romantic Pieces 1-4 Op. 75
No. 1 [3.31]
No. 2 [2.51]
No. 3 [2.07]
No. 4 [4.57]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Notturno and Tarantella, Op. 28:
Notturno [5.18]
Tarantella [5.13]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite No.3 in D, BWV1068 II. Air (arr. Lothar Windsperger) [5.05]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo Concertant:
V. Dithyrambe [3.17]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Le Petit Ane blanc [2.24]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Schön Rosmarin [1.55]
Caprice viennois [3.40]
Tambourin chinois [3.48]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ave Maria (arr. Wilhelmj. ed. Jascha Heifetz) [5.04]
Sergei RACHMAMINOV (1873-1943)
Romance, Op. 6 No. 1 [4.12]
Danse Hongroise, Op. 6, No. 2 [4.35]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation from Thaďs (transc. Martin Pierre Marsick) [4.40]
Beau soir (transc. Heifetz)[2.13]
Pablo DE SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 [7.51]
Itamar Golan (piano)
rec. July 1998, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, UK
[76.53]

CD 6
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons
Concerto Op. 8, No. 1 (RV 269) “Spring” in E major [10.23]
Concerto Op. 8, No. 2 (RV 315) “Summer” in G minor [10.26]
Concerto Op. 8, No. 3 (RV 293) “Autumn” in F major [11.07]
Concerto Op. 8, No. 4 (RV 297) “Winter” in F minor [8.45]
St Luke’s Chamber Ensemble/Kyung-Wha Chung
rec. Sept 2000, Sunny Purchase College – Theatre C, Purchase, New York, USA
[41.12]

CD 7
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 [31.42]
(Jonathan Del Mar Edition, Barenreiter)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77* [41.21]
Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
rec. 1-3 Dec 2000 (live recording); *18-20 Dec 2000, Musikverein, Wien
[73.18]

CD 8
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 [47.16]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8 [12.12]
Chung Trio: Myung-Wha Chung (cello); Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
rec. Dec 1988, The Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA
[59.36]

CD 9
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat, Op. 1, No. 1 [32.43]
Piano Trio No. 5 in D, Op. 70, No. 1 ‘Ghost’ [30.57]
Chung Trio: Myung-Wha Chung (cello); Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
rec. 19-21 Nov 1991, Theatre Imperial, Compiegne, Oise, France
[63.51]

CD 10
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio No. 4 in B flat, Op. 11 [21.45]
Piano Trio No. 7 in B Flat Op. 97 ‘Archduke’ [39.22]
Chung Trio: Myung-Wha Chung (cello); Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
rec. 3-5 Dec 1992, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, USA
[61.09]

CD 11
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 49 [29.13]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 63 [31.44]
Paul Tortelier (cello); André Previn (piano)
rec. Dec 1978, Abbey Road Studio, London, UK
[60.57]

DVD
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 [44.41]
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
rec. live, 29-30 Nov-1 Dec 1989, Grosse Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Video producer/Director: Christopher Swann
DVD Colour - NTSC systems - DVD 5 - 1080 / 60p - LPCM 48hz / 16 bit - 1.5Mbps
[47.45]

 

 




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