Chung Kyung-wha to perform ‘Bible of violin‘
By Do Je-hae
The biggest surprise of Chung Kyung-wha’s official return to the stage last December was that she would finally start preparations for recording J.S. Bach’s (1685-1750) sonatas and partitas for solo violin, called the “Bible of the Violin Repertory.”
She will perform all of them for the first time in her career starting May 15, CMI, her agency, announced Wednesday.
For 30 years, she recorded most of the major repertory for the violin and chamber music from Vivaldi to Prokofiev. But she has shunned recording Bach’s solo works, saying that she would wait until she was ready to take on the monumental challenge.
“We are nearing an agreement with Universal Music to start the Bach project. The recitals will be an opportunity for audiences to get a taste of what her solo Bach will sound like ahead of the release of the recording,” CMI official Yoo Ji-in said.
Chung will play the works on May 15, 22, 31 and June 4 at Myeongdong Cathedral.
Very few violinists have recorded the whole set of the solo works by the Baroque master.
Deutsche Grammophon, for example, has previously released the work only four times, by master violinists Nathan Milstein, Henrik Schering, Shlomo Mintz and most recently by a young Korean violinist Kim Su-yoen.
Completed in 1720, the revolutionary set of six works (three sonatas and three partitas) firmly established the violin as a solo instrument. The pieces have served as an archetype for violin pieces for the following generations of composers including Eugene Ysaye and Bela Bartok.
“The Bach that I will play will be a personal confession of my life,” Chung said in a statement. She has in recent years gone through some tough times personally, losing her mother, sister and the legendary Decca producer Christopher Rayburn, who had been by her side through her rise as one of the world’s most respected violinists in the 1970-80s.
The highlight of Bach’s solo violin works is the Chaconne (Ciaccona) in D minor, the concluding movement of Partita No. 2 in D minor.
German composer Johannes Brahms once wrote to pianist Clara Schumann in a letter about the Chaconne; “On one stave, for a small instrument, Bach writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings.”
The piece is about 14 minutes long and requires the utmost interpretational and technical skill.
After leaving the stage in 2006 due to a finger injury, she has been a devoted teacher at the Julliard School in New York. But she now seems more dedicated to be the passionate performer and recording artist that she used to be.
She recently held concerts filled with fiery performances reminiscent of her prime years, while doing things she has never done before, like teaming up with a teenage pianist in a recital.
Chung has also programmed Mozart sonatas in her comeback repertoire. CMI confirmed last December future recording proejcts of Mozart and Beethoven sonatas, works which have yet to appear on her illustrious discography for Decca and EMI.
The 64-year-old has been known for being very careful in her choice of partnering pianists, so it was a surprise when she chose 18-year-old Cho Seong-jin to play with her in recitals in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, and Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, in March.
She now has a home in Seoul and serves as the artistic director of Great Mountains Music Festival & School, which will take place from July 21 through Aug. 11.
For more information on Chung’ Bach recitals, call (02) 518-7343 or visit www.cmikorea.co.kr.
Recordings of the full cycle of J.S. Bach’s sonatas and partitas are rare.
Those by legendary violinists Nathan Milstein, top, Itzhak Perlman, bottom left, and Henryk Szeryng have been lauded by critics and listners alike as definitive interpretations of the most important solo work written for violin.
The sonatas and partitas are composed of several movements. Some of them are popular as encore pieces.