Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Ji Young and Dong Hyek

At this stage of my life, I rarely pay too much attention to commercial reviews where there is often too much commerce, too much fashion, and not enough music. However I was attracted to a new CD by two unknown (to me) artists playing Mozart and Beethoven violin and piano sonatas: Ji Young Lim (violin) and Dong Hyek Lim (piano). The reviewer praised the performances for being “period 2016” and found that the two artists played in a thoroughly modern style. What a welcome change! Many things have improved since the 1780s, including the sounds made by violins and pianos. “Period performances” are fine for those embarking on a degree course in the history of playing styles and mannerisms. For listening to the music of Mozart and Beethoven, give me 2016 sound any day.

Both Lims are young, and embark on the music of young Mozart and young Beethoven with freshness and enthusiasm. They are both Korean (but not related, it seems); it is strange how, in the last few decades, Koreans, Chinese and Japanese have taken to Western music with such success. Historically, it is hardly “their” music, and they certainly have music of their own. But so do Indians, Arabs and Africans, but Indians, Arabs and Africans are hardly famous as violinists or pianists in Western music.

It appears that, in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2015 (where Ji Young won first prize) her name was confused with a fellow Korean competitor, Lee Ji Yoon, who bounded onto the stage to claim the prize. One of the handicaps of being a famous Korean: no one will distinguish or remember your name thereafter. Maybe the highly talented Ji Young and Dong Hyek should adopt stage names.

Anyway, what we have here is two young people making music with skill, taste and enthusiasm. I enjoyed all four works immensely (K 301, K 302, K 378, and Beethoven Op 12 No.1). As with all violin and piano recordings, the balance depends quite a lot on how you listen – headphones, or speakers. I found the recording and balance satisfactory, and the playing of both musicians really first class. My money is ready for more from them. Often the playing of young musicians, with everything still to prove, is more refreshing and exhilarating than the playing of famous names who are playing a piece for the 200th time. Here I admire the playing of Ji Young. Equally, I admire the playing of Dong Hyek. More !

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