Sunday, 10 February 2013

Soo-Hyun Park

The recorded performances by Michael Rabin of Wieniawski's first violin concerto are rightly famous, and Jascha Heifetz's recording of the genial violin concerto by Julius Conus is another classic. No need for rival versions, in that case? Well, actually, yes there is. There was a strange habit in the middle of the last century of hacking large chunks of music from violin concertos by composers such as Paganini, Wieniawski or Vieuxtemps, usually leaving the violin part more or less intact, but excising many orchestral passages. A bit odd, since I do not recall piano concertos by the likes of Liszt, Grieg or Rachmaninov suffering the same indignities. Added to this, it was the fashion post-war, particularly for American artists or American recordings, to give violinists solo spotlight treatment so that, even when playing pianissimo, they could eclipse a full orchestra.

The Rabin Wieniawski recordings suffer both cuts, and outlandish balance. Heifetz in the Conus concerto may or not have made cuts (I do not have a score) but, again, the balance is unnatural. I therefore bought a début CD by 23 year old Soo-Hyun Park since not only does it contain both the Wieniawski first concerto and the Conus concerto, but also the concerto in all but name by Vieuxtemps, the 19 minute Fantasia Appassionata in G minor. A happy purchase. Ms Park does not, needless to say, have the outsize personalities of Rabin or Heifetz. But, like all modern violinists, she can play this music standing on her head with one arm tied behind her back, even the fiendishly exposed theme in tenths in the first movement of the Wieniawski. She demonstrates an excellent empathy with all three pieces, none of which demands a molto bravura approach and all of which respond well to Ms Park's playing. And there are no cuts, which gives the Wieniawski concerto a whole new stature, plus the violin is accorded a natural balance with the orchestra. The result is three highly enjoyable concerto performances, and 69 minutes of enjoyable violin playing.

A critical quibble with which to end? The dreaded graphic artist strikes again and deems that for a very pale grey CD centre label, pale white type colour is in order so that it cannot possibly be read. Daft. Anyway, all praise to Onyx, and all praise to Ms Park for a début disc with three excellent concertos that are not by Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn or Sibelius. Future rivals take note!

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