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.

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Emoji are rapidly becoming the language of the internet
techWhy internet acronyms are being driven out by emoji
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before