Admirers of Kyung-Wha Chung will hardly mind the poor value in time-length (Kennedy, also on EMI, does not have a coupling, either), when it so winningly adds to Chung’s discography. It is the more welcome when, since her switch from Decca to EMI, new recordings from her have been all too few. This is an unashamedly traditional performance, one which has little or no regard for period practice, but gives us a sequence of four concertos in warmly relaxed readings. Unlike those of Kennedy and Mutter they avoid extreme speeds, either fast or slow.
Internationally renowned soloist Lucille Chung performs a programme of virtuosic and beguiling works by Franz Liszt. One of the first female students of the iconic Russian pianist Lazar Berman at the Accademia Pianistica in Imola, Italy, Chung has won numerous awards for her performances of Liszt’s music, including the B minor Sonata that features on this programme – although Lucille describes in her introduction to the programme how Berman “… for a time doubted that a diminutive lady with hands spanning a 9th (although I can now stretch a 10th on a good day) would ever succeed in playing Liszt well … Mr Berman came around.”
The centrepiece of this French-themed recital by Kyung Wha Chung and Kevin Kenner is the splendid violin sonata by César Franck. It is a work long associated with Chung, described by the Financial Times as “one of the greatest violinists of the last half-century”. Newer to Chung’s repertoire is Fauré’s Sonata No 1. As she told Strings magazine, each of the works constitutes “a whole portrait of life itself,” and she drew a comparison with Monet’s paintings: “The reflection of light has endless possibility. The same thing applies to the texture and the sound when you’re playing. There are millions of sounds.”
This is an auspicious beginning to what one hopes will be a series of recordings of French opera made with the forces of the Bastille under Chung. Without doubt this is the most subtly and expertly conducted performance of this work to appear on CD, excellent as others have been in this respect, and also the best played and sung. Chung's achievement is to have welded the elements of pagan ruthlessness, erotic stimulation and Wagnerian harmony that comprise Saint-Saens's masterpiece into a convincing whole.
Myung-Whun Chung is one of the leading conductors of his generation. Also a prize-winning pianist, he is particularly noted for his interpretations of the music of French composer Olivier Messiaen. There has rarely been as talented a group of siblings as Myung-Whun and his two older sisters, cellist Myung-Wha Chung (born 1944) and violinist Kyung-Wha Chung (born 1948). Myung-Whun made his performing debut as a pianist in Seoul at the age of 7. At 8, he flew to Seattle, WA, to begin his American musical studies.