on 4 August 2003
Kyung Wha Chung cut these legendary recordings in the 70s, with fantastic analogue sound and outstanding orchestral rapport. She plays the Mendelssohn with a pace which brings out the sheer joy and beauty of the music, free of lingering exaggerated sentimentality. If ever there was a modern masterpiece, this recording is one. The sound is sweet and virile, and in this as in so many of her recordings she plays as if she is capturing a live performance, not the stereotyped studio. There is a spontaneity so often lacking in studio recordings, and this time it does not fade with repeated hearings.
The Bruch Concerto is also wonderfully fresh, a real breath of life in a much-recorded work. (Astonishingly, she plays this work even more beguilingly later with Klaus Tennstedt, coupled with the Beethoven, another must-have recording). I first heard the Kempe collaboration of the Bruch Concerto and Scottish Fantasy when it was released on vinyl, long ago played into scratched oblivion as was the way with my favourite LPs. Hearing the CD is just magical. Even the fabulous disc with Heifetz playing Bruch & Glazunov doesn't eclipse Kyung Wha Chung's legendary performance.
This 1972 recording of the Bruch violin concerto and Scottish Fantasia was one of the first discs to be issued by Decca featuring their new violin discovery and followed on from her phenomenally successful disc of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos. The coupling was a daring combination as the fantasia was relatively unknown and the concerto was normally coupled with the Mendelssohn concerto. For this reissue, the later Mendelssohn recording from 1981 is included. This too, was very successful and was one of the fruits of her later partnership with Dutoit.
This remastered disc has all the advantages of the latest remastering technology and is an improvement over previous CD issues which were compromised by the relatively limited sonic range available at that time. What we have here is a clear upgrade back and beyond to the levels achieved with top end LP players and this provides far greater 'presence', a deeper sound-stage and greater tonal depth.
The performances are classics of their time and are still to be preferred to most of the more recent issues. This is because of the personality of the young soloist who was able to communicate the sheer joy and spontaneity of her music making to a remarkable extent. This suits the Mendelssohn very well and the more romantic nature of the Bruch works is delivered with passionate simplicity. At all points there is no doubt of her virtuosity but this is never a focus of her playing. The nearest more recent player that comes to mind in these ways is the equally gifted and delightful Sarah Chang.
These are genuinely legendary recordings that fully justify the title of 'Legends' and the remastering processes involved. They deserve to be considered with the very best for purchasing purposes.
on 18 July 2003
How could anyone listen to Kyung-Wha Chung's Mendelssohn and not fall madly deeply in love with her delightful playing? It is spirited and sweet, played with brio and purity. No egging on the romantic sentiment, just joyful music making at it's most natural and sublime. The pace brings out the very best in the brilliance, and the phrasing breathes happiness.
The Bruch #1 is passionate, yet may sound surprisingly virile for those who are not familiar with Kyung-Wha Chung's delivery in her earliest recordings: definite attacks at some places give definite grunt from the start of the note, which adds spontaneity to the sound colour and spells out her commitment to the interpretation. In part it conveys the "alive" feelings I got when I heard her playing in concert in the 80s. Her rubato is lovely. Do also listen to her later recording with Tennstedt, they are both outstanding performances with different nuances.
Bruch's Scottish Fantasy has been really spoiled for me by the Vanessa Mae pop version. Remember how the cheap fake cut glasses "free with 4 gallons of petrol" demeaned the enjoyment of handling & drinking from the real thing? So it was with the Scottish Fantasy. Well, Heifetz' version just kept the flame alive for me; but re-hearing this CD legends re-release has fanned the flame back to something worthwhile and warming. I first heard this on vinyl when it was first released - never heard her play it live, more's the pity.
Personally, I can't see the point of the Penguin Classics version when this legends issue has the Mendelssohn and better remastering over all..
Also I can't see the point of the Double Decca issue with Mendelssohn/Beethoven(Kondrashin)/Tchaikovsky/Sibelius, when one can get the Sibelius/Tchaik as one CD, plus the better Beethoven(Tennstedt) coupled with the later Bruch(Tennstedt),as a second CD; then get this Legends CD.....and you must be truly madly deeply happy to be surrounded by one of the legendary violinists of our time.
The recent return of the soloist to the concert platform after a long break due to a hand problem, prompted me to listen again to two recordings from earlier in her career.
Kyung-Wha Chung, b. 1948, is part of one of the greatest contemporary musical families that includes her sister, the cellist Myung-Wha Chung, b. 1944, and brother, the conductor and pianist Myung-Whun Chung, b. 1953. The three siblings regularly united to play chamber music as the Chung Trio.
The earlier recordings are the Violin Concerto No. 1 and the Scottish Fantasia, both by Max Bruch, recorded at the Kingsway Hall, London, in 1972 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Rudolf Kempe, 1910-76. The first tracks are the Mendelssohn Concerto, recorded in 1981 at St Eustache in Montreal by Charles Dutoit, b. 1936, and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
Kyung-Wha Chung’s playing in the Mendelssohn concerto emphasises its lyrical freshness and she receives excellent support from Dutoit and the orchestra. It is strange on reading other reviews not to find mention of the support by the two orchestras and their conductors, since it is the sympathetic interaction of these with Chung that establishes such compelling performances. The sound quality is excellent and reinforces the ethereal qualities of the soloist and orchestra. I have not generally found Dutoit to be a particularly sensitive conductor but here it is difficult to fault his approach that contributes to a sparkling overall performance that was originally released with the Tchaikovsky Concerto.
The Kempe/Chung recordings remind the listener that these performances were amongst a clutch of recordings that launched her international career and made her reputation [in 1970 she recorded the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra under André Previn]. There is, once again, complete rapport between the orchestral players and the soloist, and there is a warmth and generosity in the concerto that I do not find in her more structured, constrained recording with Tennstedt and the London Symphony Orchestra.
As the leaflet note points out, at the time of the recording the Scottish Fantasia was little known and so its inclusion in a pair of works selected by Chung, represented a considerable gamble by Decca. However, its Celtic tonalities with their melancholic associations are very persuasive, especially when so sensitively supported. Kempe understands this music, creates long shaping phrases and offers pointed chamber-like support and response to a soloist who never puts virtuosic technique above musical expressiveness. The sound quality once again reinforces the obvious pleasure that all the performers so clearly communicate. Throughout all three works, the overall balance between soloist and orchestra is exemplary.
The booklet contains four photographs of the soloist that show her at various stages of her career; one shows her shoeless which perhaps helped her to be better grounded in the orchestral sound. There is a brief essay about Kyung-Wha Chung by Edward Greenfield, b. 1928, always a perceptive commentator. Perhaps even more interesting, however, are the memories of Ray Minshull, Head of Decca’s Classical Artists’ Department, 1967-94, about the Bruch recordings. Interestingly, Minshull considered Kempe to be ‘a tragically underrated natural successor to Erich Kleiber’ and also commented on the unprecedented range of emotions that the soloist was able to draw from the lower three strings of her instrument.
I am happy to add another 5* score.
on 22 August 2011
I have other accounts of these works by all sorts of violinists - Heifetz , Oistrach , Stern , Perlman , Accardo , et al , these performances are the best I have heard . Sheer magic .
The remastering is excellent also , and at such a bargain price it is almost a giveaway .
This is one disc I always have permanently on my coffee table , ready to play .
I never tire of it .