Notes and Editorial Reviews
Kyung-Wha Chung has a knack of persuading the listener temporarily to suspend disbelief. There are several passages on this record in which one is convinced, for the time being, that Saint-Saens's Third Concerto is almost as fine a work as the Mendelssohn; even the rambling and jerry-built Vieuxtemps Concerto gains in stature from her earnest committedness. Both works were written for celebrated virtuosi (the Saint-Saens for Sarasate, the Vieuxtemps for the composer himself), and both call for dexterous prestidigitation as well as a display of tonal sumptuousness. These Miss Chung provides in ample measure (without, to be sure, wholly disguising the sheer effort at one or two points), but it is what she adds to simple technique that makes
her interpretations so compelling. In the interlude-like slow movement of the Vieuxtemps, for example, where Pinchas Zukerman (on CBS—an even more consummately well-equipped technician) revels in the Romantic cantabile of the theme (and in the fact that it is ideally placed to show off the golden middle register of the instrument), Kyung-Wha Chung is clearly much moved by the tune, beginning it with rapt quietness and continuing with an eloquent conviction that draws nobility as well as opulence from the music.
In the Saint-Saens, the comparison with Campoli on Decca's bargain Eclipse label is immediately striking; where he gives a pure and slightly small-scaled reading, especially effective in moments of tenderness or wistfulness, Miss Chung stakes everything on impassioned rhetoric. At the soloist's first entry, Campoli stands back from the music a little, treating it as a preliminary flourish, but Kyung-Wha Chung strides in with fervent urgency and gives the entire movement a far greater tension and drama. The intensity of her manner is not uniformly successful—the unassuming central Siciliano cannot really bear a performance on such a scale (Campoli, more appropriately, gives a reading of almost fragile restraint), and she introduces an all but unpardonable scoop in the chorale theme of the finale, but even at such points as these one is repeatedly won over by her evident faith in the music and her ardent communicativeness. The recording is excellent, the violin a little too close (one or two noises that should only be audible to the player are perceptible), but with the rather turgid tuttis of the Vieuxtemps admirably clarified.
Reviewing Decca 6759 (LP)
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin no 1 in A major, Op. 20 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Kyung-Wha Chung (Violin)
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1859; France
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