Notes and Editorial Reviews
Kyung Wha Chung (vn); André Previn, cond; London SO
DECCA 475 7734, analog (66:26)
Kyung Wha Chung, only just 22 when she recorded these concertos with André Previn, already played Tchaikovsky’s Concerto with breathtaking brilliance in the first movement, nuanced yet straightforward songfulness in the second, and sprightly crispness in the finale; Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra accompanied her dynamically, with sonorously energetic tuttis. In the considerable heat of the moment, Chung occasionally produced an edgy sound and no small number of noises as her bow slashed against the strings, especially in the first movement; but that should be a drawback only for those listeners who expect that ferocious intensity like Chung’s in this performance can be wholly compatible with unfailingly suave tone production (those listeners may have preferred her second recording, with Dutoit). But for vibrant spontaneity (in a studio recording), I’d willingly pay that price—and lots more, to boot. The performance, from Kingsway Hall in June 1970, appeared on LP and later on CD in the mid 1990s. Now, Decca has remastered it in “96-KHz, 24-bit” sound and included it in its “Originals” series of “Legendary Performances” along with a similarly electric reading of the same vintage of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. In the 1970s, not long after the recording, I watched Chung play the work in a televised performance that visually underlined the grandness, freedom, and spontaneity of her musical gestures. For sheer intensity and drama, her performance with Previn nearly matches Heifetz’s later one; she spits aggressively in the first movement’s cadenza-like passages; Previn creates some almost frighteningly biting sonorities in the orchestra’s tuttis, though he provides lots of sensitive detail in the accompaniment as well. Chung and Previn, however, achieve a warmer glow in the slow movement than Heifetz did (although without his throbbing intensity), even in his earlier reading with Beecham, though for some it may run the risk of sounding almost static at times. Chung digs into the last movement’s double-stops with a sharpness of attack that commands attention.
Kyung Wha Chung’s sound may not be immediately identifiable, but her playing consistently exhibited a strong individuality, hardly anywhere more in evidence than here. The combination of her steely strength, Previn’s sympathetic collaboration, and Decca’s remastered recorded sound combine to make this re-release exceptionally desirable. Urgently recommended for all sorts of listeners and collectors.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham