Classical reviews: Kyung-Wha Chung Barbican, London

Korean-born violinist Kyung-Wha Chung's presence in London this last fortnight has been a welcome renewal of acquaintance. Billed as one of the "Great Performers" in the Barbican's current celebrity recital series, she's a star who radiates a constant light. Though younger players may flair to greater magnitudes, she remains, with a handful of famous names, like a fixed constellation among comets, meteors and other nine- days wonders.

For her latest return she chose to focus on the concerto and three sonatas of Brahms. Nearly every major romantic composer including Bach is a featured in her current discography; she herself is a romantic player. Yet her passion is edged with steel. So who better to choose for a rounded view than Brahms the classical romantic, the man who wore both hats on a head full of thoughts of baroque counterpoint?

Chung's playing remains as strong as ever, the style no less dynamic and pitched at the peak of high intensity. The visual impression of both her Barbican appearances, with the LSO and Andre Previn on Sunday night, and with the pianist Peter Frankl on Wednesday evening, was of an artist existing in relation to the accompanying forces as a darting leopard relates to its quarry. The Brahms concerto,written "against the violin" according to Hans von Bulow, might have found a soloist more ready to explore its tender poetry, but none so sure in charting the depths of its many moods. Casual in flow, relaxed in tempi, the movements did not appear to be bound in mutual tension. The drama was internal; a matter of judging the balance between elements while pushing them to extremes. Quite rightly, the cadenza became an almost theatrical climax to the edifice of swiftly changing emotions.

After the interval, Previn's reading of Rachmaninov's Third Symphony was no less-finely judged. An astute partner in the Brahms, he was now free to press the credentials of a work he clearly loves. This is Rachmaninov's neo-classical symphony, its second movement, with its wonderfully foreshortened reprise, the smartest thing he ever wrote. Previn himself is one of the world's "Great Performers", his manner in a work like this one, with players like the London Symphony Orchestra, a brisk rebuttal of the jibe that, these days, conductors all sound the same.

Chung's partner on Wednesday, Peter Frankl, was more than just an accompanist, yet still left the violinist with room for manoeuvre. In the spotlight of chamber music, the more intimate nuances of her playing became clear: a surprisingly pale pizzicato, for example, in the Second Sonata's jesting scherzo; and in the big, gutsy theme of the Third Sonata's slow movement a rounded tone, but one that lacked a degree of Kreisler-like resonance. She belongs, after all, in the stars, at her best in the heights of the violin's range where precision, tact and bowing power make for inimitable music. This, and the fierce give and take of great performers, was the keenest pleasure of the evening.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

    £16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed