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.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

    A Level Chemistry Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

    RE Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

    Maths Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering