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: Parts Advisor

    £16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

    £19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

    Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

    Day In a Page

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor