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Kyung-Wha Chung (violin) - The Complete Warner Recordings
rec. 1978-2000, Stereo ADD/DDD.
Full recording details at end of review
WARNER CLASSICS 2564614053 [11 CDs + 1 DVD]

This eleven CD box set from Korean violinist Kyung-Wha Chung combines her complete Warner Recordings produced in the period 1978/2000. Just to be clear: these are her recordings on EMI and not those released on Decca. Also included is a DVD of the Beethoven Violin Concerto recorded live at the Concertgebouw under Klaus Tennstedt.

In the 1980s during my twenties I was captivated by the trio of ultra-talented violinists on the international music scene, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Kyung-Wha Chung. At around a decade older than me they were of an age I could look up to and relate to better than the masters of the previous generation such as Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Henryk Szeryng and Salvatore Accardo. How wonderful it was to rush to Forsyths Music Shop or Gibb’s Bookshop in Manchester to buy Chung’s latest vinyl LPs. I can recall a number of stunning studio recordings for Decca, a roster that she had started in the 1970s through to the 1980s especially the concertos by Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn under Dutoit, Walton under Previn and Elgar under Solti. In 1988 Chung signed a recording contract with EMI that led to the ten albums which are included on this eleven disc set together with a previous released 1978 album on EMI of Mendelssohn and Schumann piano trios with Chung collaborating with Paul Tortelier and André Previn. Tragically in 2005, ill health and injury to Chung’s left index finger ended her performing career after nearly forty years. After an absence of almost a decade in December 2014 aged 66 Chung made her stage come-back at the Royal Festival Hall her first London recital in a decade.

Listening to Chung’s performances for an extended sitting, my first with these for a number of years, there was a slight degree of disappointment with some of the recordings — there is such fierce competition in the catalogues today. With all the choice now available of the core repertoire it is easier to become more discriminating. Chung’s set is rather a mixed bag with a number of excellent performances, a few more problematic ones and a small number somewhere in between.

In the concertos probably the best of all are the excellently judged and captivating playing of the Bartók Violin Concerto No. 2 with Chung alongside the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle. It's from 1990 and was recorded in Cheltenham. Then there's the entirely engaging 2000 New York account of the Vivaldi The Four Seasons with Chung directing the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble from the violin. I greatly enjoyed Chung’s playing of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Philadelphia under Riccardo Muti yet I found the Romance in F minor rather lacklustre.

Four of the discs are given over to piano trios — excellent examples of Chung as a chamber musician and each of them wonderfully performed. Played by the Chung Trio the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 and the Shostakovich Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8 from 1988 and set down in New York are excellently performed with no shortage of vitality. The Chung Trio also excel with vivacious and captivating accounts of the Beethoven Piano Trios No. 1, No. 4, No. 5Ghost’ and No. 7Archduke’ all recorded in 1991/92 in Compičgne, France and in New York. Other quite outstanding performances are those involving Chung playing with cellist Paul Tortelier and pianist André Previn in the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1, Op. 49 and the Schumann Piano Trio No.1, Op. 63. These are appealing readings with considerable brio. They were made in London in 1978. Also worthy of attention is Chung’s 1998 London recital disc with Itamar Golan consisting of 19 shorter works many of them encore pieces. I especially enjoyed Chung and Golan’s excellent accounts of the Dvořák Humoreske in G flat, Op. 101/7, the 4 Romantic Pieces, Op. 75, Szymanowski Notturno and Tarantella, Op. 28 and the Sarasate Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20.

Slightly disappointing were Chung’s performances of the repertoire warhorse concertos by Beethoven, Bruch and Brahms. All three felt uneven in quality and are unable to compete with a number of outstanding accounts in the catalogue. Coupled with Chung’s account of Brahms Violin Concerto is a most excellent performance of the Beethoven Symphony No. 5 by the Wiener Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle - a bold and spirited account recorded at the Musikverein in 2000. Of real interest to many I’m sure will be the DVD of Chung’s 1989 live Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Klaus Tennstedt. This appears to be the same recording as that on CD 2. Played on my DVD player through my standard television the sound quality was acceptable without being outstanding, however, the picture quality was slightly disappointing. I couldn’t help thinking how dated everything looks ... that's after only twenty-six years.

Kyung-Wha Chung is an outstanding artist deserving of her elevated ranking in the pantheon of violinists and this set is a confident reminder of why she is so highly placed.

Michael Cookson

Full Recording Details
CD 1
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 [33.24]
Romance in F minor, Op. 11 [13.00]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Riccardo Muti
rec. 1988, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, USA

CD 2
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 [44.41]
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Op. 26* [25.05]
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
*London Philharmonic Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
rec. 29, 30 Nov, 1 Dec 1989, Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam (live recording); *8-10 May 1990, No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, UK

CD 3
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor [38.00]
Rhapsody No.1* [10.11]
Rhapsody No.2* [11.00]
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Sir Simon Rattle
rec. July 1990, Cheltenham Town Hall; *May and June 1992, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK

CD 4
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78 [28.00]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A, Op. 100 [19.43]
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 [20.10]
Peter Frankl, piano
rec. Sept 1995, St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK

CD 5
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Humoreske in G flat, Op. 101 No. 7 (arr. August Wilhelmj)
Romantic Pieces 1-4 Op. 75
No. 1 [3.31]
No. 2 [2.51]
No. 3 [2.07]
No. 4 [4.57]
Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
Notturno and Tarantella, Op. 28:
Notturno [5.18]
Tarantella [5.13]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Suite No.3 in D, BWV1068 II. Air (arr. Lothar Windsperger) [5.05]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Duo Concertant:
V. Dithyrambe [3.17]
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Le Petit Ane blanc [2.24]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Schön Rosmarin [1.55]
Caprice viennois [3.40]
Tambourin chinois [3.48]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ave Maria (arr. Wilhelmj. ed. Jascha Heifetz) [5.04]
Sergei RACHMAMINOV (1873-1943)
Romance, Op. 6 No. 1 [4.12]
Danse Hongroise, Op. 6, No. 2 [4.35]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation from Thaďs (transc. Martin Pierre Marsick) [4.40]
Beau soir (transc. Heifetz)[2.13]
Pablo DE SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 [7.51]
Itamar Golan (piano)
rec. July 1998, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, UK

CD 6
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons
Concerto Op. 8, No. 1 (RV 269) “Spring” in E major [10.23]
Concerto Op. 8, No. 2 (RV 315) “Summer” in G minor [10.26]
Concerto Op. 8, No. 3 (RV 293) “Autumn” in F major [11.07]
Concerto Op. 8, No. 4 (RV 297) “Winter” in F minor [8.45]
St Luke’s Chamber Ensemble/Kyung-Wha Chung
rec. Sept 2000, Sunny Purchase College – Theatre C, Purchase, New York, USA

CD 7
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 [31.42]
(Jonathan Del Mar Edition, Barenreiter)
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77* [41.21]
Wiener Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle
rec. 1-3 Dec 2000 (Live Recording) & *18-20 Dec 2000, Musikverein, Wien

CD 8
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50 [47.16]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 8 [12.12]
Chung Trio:
Myung-Wha Chung (cello)
Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
rec. Dec 1988, The Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA

CD 9
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio No. 1 in E flat, Op. 1, No. 1 [32.43]
Piano Trio No. 5 in D, Op. 70, No. 1 ‘Ghost’ [30.57]
Chung Trio:
Myung-Wha Chung (cello)
Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
rec. 19-21 Nov 1991, Theatre Imperial, Compiegne, Oise, France

CD 10
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Trio No. 4 in B flat, Op. 11 [21.45]
Piano Trio No. 7 in B Flat Op. 97 ‘Archduke’ [39.22]
Chung Trio:
Myung-Wha Chung (cello)
Myung-Whun Chung (piano)
rec. 3-5 Dec 1992, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, USA

CD 11
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 49 [29.13]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Trio No.1 in D minor, Op. 63 [31.44]
Paul Tortelier (cello); André Previn (piano)
rec. Dec 1978, Abbey Road Studio, London, UK

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61 [44.41]
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Klaus Tennstedt
rec. live, 30 Nov - 1 Dec 1989, Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Video producer/Director: Christopher Swann
DVD Colour - NTSC systems - DVD 5 - 1080 / 60p - LPCM 48hz / 16 bit - 1.5Mbps


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