Why did Kyung Wha Chung make this CD? She has produced recorded performances of legendary artistry, such as the Mendelssohn with Dutoit, the Sibelius Tchaikovsy Bruch (& Scottish Fantasy) with Previn, the Bruch and Beethoven with Tennstedt, and the fabulous Bartok 2 and Brahms with Sir Simon Rattle. Also there is the exquisite Franck Sonata with Radu Lupu. Meanwhile, the 4 seasons has over the years endured all sorts of pillage and torture, the likes of Nigel Kennedy making mavericke with it etc. So, why did this legend in her own lifetime decide to record these concerti? After listening to this CD over and over, the answer is crystal clear. This is purely and simply an opportunity for magical music-making. Playing Vivaldi with sparklingly unmannered joy shows just how wonderful and fresh this music can be. Listen to the first movement of Winter - a perfectly glacial display of immaculate articulation, but never devoid of feeling. In short, an ensemble performance without exaggeration, without oversentimentalising, but delicious. My favourite performance till now has been the silvery classics for pleasure version with Kenneth Sillito, now sadly deleted. This new release by Kyung Wha Chung has some of the same spontaneity, and is a very good choice. A pity, it could have been offered with additional material. Nevertheless, this is one disc you will listen to again and again.
This recording was the the second last to be recorded by Kyung Wha Chung to date, and one can only hope that she will return to the studio soon ... footage on youtube of her playing in Korea in recent months suggests that her expressive power remains undimmed, in fact if anything she has got even better than in her white-hot early days when, in the studio at least, she could sound a bit tentative, worried about the unmusicality of trying to set down some kind of definitive version, no doubt. This disappeared by the time she was recording for EMI, and this is one of the high points of that period, with Chung sounding very at ease directing the St Luke's Chamber Ensemble which I remember her saying was a very enjoyable experience. Footage on youtube attests to the wonderful rapport she had with the players that led to a superbly frozen first movement of Winter, and a most marvellously vivid storm in Summer. Her tone just gleams and glistens, a universe of light and feeling unto itself. It is a marvellous collaborative effort with Chung's superb playing and commitment lifting it into the miraculous, a bit like the double rainbow she referred to - again on youtube - as a phenomenon of nature she was reminded of by the music. It takes playing of this calibre to reinvent the music when it is something so familiar, but I defy anyone who thinks they have heard this work to saturation point not have their sense of it rejuvenated by Chung and the St Luke's players.
Kyung-Wha Chung is one of the most acclaimed violinists in the world, yet seems to eschew the sorts of hype and celebrity lavished on other performers. Born into a Korean musical family, she embodies an internationalism in the depth of her emotional awareness, both of the instrument she plays and in her performances - live or on disc. She brings to the Vivaldi her typical passion and excitement - an excitement which is more restrained, more eloquent, more cerebral than, say, the more populist Nigel Kennedy. It's interesting to compare their different passions - the painterly qualities with the firework display. I can't subscribe to the notion that there is a 'definitive' Vivaldi - whether played on period instruments or modern ones, music is always capable of interpretation and it is perfectly possible to love several widely different versions of the same work. Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" is a worthy piece of music, a piece which is capable of varied interpretation without robbing the listener of its excitement and passionate strengths. It has attracted many interpreters over the years - there is no shortage of recordings of the work. Kyung-Wha Chung's is one of the best ... though that, of course, is always going to be a matter of taste. This is musicianship with an outstanding pedigree - intelligent, reflective, a violinist who demands your attention by the eloquence of her phrasing and sheer emotional lyricism of her instrument. Simply beautiful.
Chung opened new interpretation of "the four seasons" which is believed to be interpreted in all diversities. Chung herself conducted orchestra, violin solo is well balanced with ensemble (orchestra if you prefer). It is very surprising when you realize that performance with "chamber ensemble" can be as powerful and dramatic as full orchestra performance (compare this album with Mutter and Karajan with Vienna Phil) not to mention about pleasant chamber delicacy (comp with Loveday and Marriner with St. Martin Academy). You experience vivid "four seasoned" year. Most of all, Chung's summer storm is marvelously dynamic and clean and you see clear sky with rainbow afterward. You will see what an inspiration driven performance can be. To buy 42 minutes with 13 Pounds is really rewarding, you bet!