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Bomsori Kim (violin)
Violin on Stage
Henri WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise brillante No 1 in D major, Op 4 (1853) [5:17]
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Nutcracker: No 14 (arr. Rot) 'Andante maestoso’ [5:10]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)
Carmen Fantasy (1946) [10:50]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice (arr. Rot) [3:30]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation from Thaïs (1891) [5:29]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso in A minor, Op 28 (1863) [9:47]
‘Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ from Samson et Dalila (arr. Rot) [7:09]
Légende in G minor, Op 17 (1860) [7:41]
Fantasie brillante on motifs from the opera Faust by Gounod, Op 20 (1865) [17:21]
NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic/Giancarlo Guerrero
rec. December 2020, Main Hall, National Forum of Music, Wroclaw, Poland
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 486 0788 [72:59]

Constrained by the Covid-19 pandemic, Korean violin virtuoso Bomsori Kim (b. 1989) felt compelled to make a recording to re-establish, to some degree, that “connection with live audiences” she sorely misses with the loss of active concert halls. A pupil of Young Uck Kim and a graduate of the Juilliard School, Bomsori has already established her credentials in various competitions, such as the Tchaikovsky, Queen Elisabeth, Sibelius and Wieniawski, and in 2020 she won the Frederyk Music Award for the Best Polish Album Abroad. She plays a particularly sweet-toned instrument, a 1774 J.B. Guadagnini Turin, on loan to her from the Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation.

Bomsori and conductor Guerrero open with Wieniawski’s Polonaise brillante in D major, Op 4, conceived for Karol Lipinski, who at the time served as concertmaster of the Dresden Opera. With its nationalistic and virtuosic touches, such as its demands for flageolet notes, double stops, broken triads, and wide leaps, the work satisfies the gifted performer with a well-crafted vehicle rich in verve and dramatic contrast. Bomsori plays the piece with a natural directness and subdued passion that might suggest the youthful days of Ida Haendel. Bomsori and Guerrero then address an arrangement by Michael Rot of the Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, specifically the Dance of The Prince and the Sugar-Plum Fairy, with its grand melody comprised of a simple, descending scale. The combination of harp arpeggios and woodwind effects, over which Bomsori plays bariolage figures proves quite lyrically piquant.

The tenor of the program shifts dramatically with the collaboration by Bomsori and Guerrero in the Carmen Fantasie of Hollywood composer Franz Waxman, who had arranged the music from Bizet’s opera for Jascha Heifetz, but utilized the score for director Jean Negulesco’s 1947 melodrama Humoresque, starring John Garfield and Joan Crawford, in which Isaac Stern supplied the violin component. Waxman specifically sought to establish his own technique in his arrangement, not following Sarasate. Waxman’s opening cadenza covers five octaves, then proceeding to the Habañera, and then to the “fate” motif (in D minor) associated with the reading of cards that predicts Carmen’s death. The high G fortifies Carmen’s consignment to her fate. Consecutive fingered octaves make their own demands on Bomsori, as do motions in seconds, ascending glissandos, down and up staccatos, and consecutive sixths, each of these an added, virtuoso dimension beyond that of Sarasate. The Sequidilla projects an erotic component requisite to the film’s enactment of what becomes the fatal passion between Garfield and Crawford. The final section exploits the gypsy element in the opera, with augmented seconds, harmonic scales, glissandos, strained intervals, and rapid alternation of arco and pizzicato passages. Whether or not Bomsori knows the Heifetz recording, she gives him a creditable run for his money.

I can rarely hear Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice without recalling my first reading of Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. Here, Bomsori performs an arrangement by Michael Rot. Plaintive and disarmingly sincere, this music evokes tragedy by its sheer simplicity of means. No less exquisitely direct, the Méditation from Massenet’s opera Thaïs represents a distillation of French melody, rarified in its appeal. The piece, which serves as an intermezzo, depicts the emotional, albeit fatal, transformation of the formerly sensual protagonist to a life of piety.

Another Heifetz staple, Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo capriccioso in A minor, graces Bomsori’s program; and here, her silvery tone and piercing attacks remind me of the French virtuoso Janine Andrade. Guerrero’s conducting here strikes me as more assertive than had been the case hitherto. At once dramatic and silken in execution, the performance displays a natural, singing flair in Bomsori’s arsenal that endears itself without hyperbolic gestures. To reinforce the eros of the moment, Bomsori intones, in another Michael Rot transcription, the lovely aria from Samson et Dalila, ‘Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’ with its almost palpable surrender in the combination of violin and harp.

Two more Wieniawski virtuoso showpieces conclude this impressive album: the Légende in G minor, Op 17, and his Fantasie on Motifs from the opera Faust of Gounod, Op 20. The Légende served as Wieniawski’s love-letter to Isabella Hampton, whose parents initially rejected him as a proper suitor until they heard this music, which changed their minds. In ternary form, the music opens with a pair of bassoons a sixth apart. Bomsori enters with a plaintive melody, andante, that will evolve into a double-stopped march in G major for the middle section, Allegro moderato. After a notable climax for all participants, the opening G minor section returns, requiring Bomsori to soar up to a high G, while the music evaporates softly. The Faust Fantasia develops in five stages, opening in A minor and eventually concluding, Tempo di Valse, with bravura effects in A major. Wieniawski employs a flexible variation technique so as to absorb individual characters from the opera into his consecutive evolution of his pastiche: we hear Faust, Méphistophélès, and Marguerite, Valentin, and Siébel, either in whole melodies from their arias or in distinct phrases. Section 3 of the Fantasy thoroughly enjoys ‘Le veau d’or’ of Mephisto. The lovely variant using Marguerite’s ‘Je veux t’aimer’ and Faust’s ‘Laisse-moi’ from Act III mesmerizes us in Section 4 of the Fantasy. The final section of the Fantasy derives from the Act II waltz, in which Bomsori plays in high flute tones and quick, detached bow strokes. It’s been a dazzling display on Bomsori’s part, justifying the accolades she has received and is likely to glean in a successful future.

Gary Lemco

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