Andre Previn and Kyung-Wha Chung have that special magic which sparkles in the Tchaikovsky and notably the fabulous Chung performance of the Sibelius. There are so many versions of these to choose from nowadays, and I have many of them, but I keep coming back to this performance of both concerti. An excellent analogue recording from the mid-70s superbly remastered. The Mendelssohn is fine, and if only the set included the later Chung version of the Beethoven it would be a 5 gold stars set.
Of course, the Sibelius and Tchaikovsy are available on one CD released separately, if you wish to fork out more for separates....I preferred to buy this set at the time, which is one of my more frequently visited recordings, and then get the later Chung Beethoven recording coupled with the Bruch. Now there's the thing, you get to compare the early Chung with her later maturity in the great late Ludwig's masterpiece, along with outstanding concerti played with accuracy, character, and purity of tone and interpretation. Chung has all the style and character in such demand after the middle 20th century post-Heifetz, plus all the purity and accuracy expected at the end of the century. Enjoy.
Four of the greatest violin concerti played by Kyung Wha Chung, b. 1948, on a 2CD set is real value for money. This is especially true when two of the performances, of the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky concerti [paired on the second CD], represent the artist’s recording debut in 1970 with the London Symphony Orchestra under André Previn. This session was arranged following her London performances of these works that attracted great critical and audience acclaim.
The works on the first CD are the Mendelssohn concerto recorded in 1981 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under Charles Dutoit and the Beethoven concerto, from 1979, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kiril Kondrashin.
Pride of place must go to the two performances with Previn who is sympathetic and attentive throughout, and respects the beauty of the violin playing. Chung’s technique is flawless and she imbues her playing with an intensity of feeling that is attuned to the mixed emotions of exuberance and reflective sadness of the Tchaikovsky and the brooding darkness of the Sibelius. It is clear that artist and soloist possess an excellent rapport [something somewhat lacking on the other CD]. At that time of these recordings there were few leading classical soloists from Asia, the pianist Fou Ts’ong, b. 1934, being one exception, so this recording has sociological and historical, as well as musical, significance.
Chung first played the Mendelssohn concerto in Seoul, aged nine, and whilst she captures the freshness and vitality of the work, Dutoit’s accompaniment is slightly plodding. The Beethoven concerto is another slight disappointment and whilst soloist and orchestra perform very well they do not come together as I had hoped and the sound from the Sofiensaal is not up to the standard of the other recordings. Kondrashin is generally attentive to his partner but sounds curiously disengaged. One suspects that the same forces on a different day might have created something truly special. Certainly the final movement lacks the necessary degree of excitement and flair
Chung's style and tone is ideally suited to the [late] Romantic repertoire and, overall, the Decca engineers have produced a correspondingly rich and full recording.
The booklet note by Lindsay Kemp, describes the artist’s debut and briefly comments on the four works. Chung has recorded the Max Bruch concerto and all five performances offer an insightful and rewarding exploration of the major concerti for the instrument, works that through their repetition can sound too comfortable and familiar. Following the artist’s decade-long retirement from the platform following a problem with a finger in 2005, this set is also a reminder of an inspirational artist who gave great pleasure to many listeners, 9/10.