Kyung-Wha Chung comes from a distinguished family of Korean musicians. She and her siblings Myung-Wha (a cellist) and Myung-Whun (a pianist and conductor) all trained at the the Juilliard School and formed the Chung Trio together, making an acclaimed recording of the Beethoven piano trios. Kyung-Wha began her violin studies privately in Korea and made her début with the Mendelssohn Concerto at nine with the Seoul Symphony Orchestra; by the age of twelve she was touring Japan. Her studies with Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School culminated with her being awarded the 1967 Leventritt Memorial Prize jointly with Pinchas Zukerman. Her New York début came a year later and in 1970 she made her first European appearance in London, performing the Tchaikovsky Concerto, which cemented her popularity in the UK. She continued seeing Galamian until 1971, also having lessons with Gingold, Goldberg and Szigeti, and in 1973 made her first appearance at the Salzburg Festival with the London Symphony Orchestra, playing the Mendelssohn Concerto under Previn.
Although Chung is often credited with being the first Korean violinist to attain international recognition, her contemporary Young-Uck Kim, and Dong-Suk Kang who is only a few years younger, were also instrumental around the same time in putting Korea on the musical map. In music for violin and piano, Chung has worked in duos with Radu Lupu, Krystian Zimerman, Stephen Kovacevich, Peter Frankl (with whom she recorded the Brahms sonatas) and Itamar Golan.
Chung, who plays the 1734 ‘ex-Rode’ Guarneri del Gesù violin, epitomises the now-common aesthetic espoused in the latter half of the twentieth century by alumni of the Juilliard School. Their familiar and distinctive palette is characterised by great warmth of tone with heavy reliance upon vibrato, projection of emotion (mostly through dynamic shading) and tremendous accuracy, and in this Chung represents the highest artistic standards of her age. Chosen here to illustrate her style are fine performances of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Beethoven concertos (recorded in 1970, 1975 and 1979 respectively), as well as characterful playing of Franck’s celebrated Violin Sonata, and the intense musical language of Respighi’s rather less well-known essay (both from 1988).
As one of the earliest classical string players to emerge from the Far East and train in America, and as an artist who quickly won the appreciation of her Western audience, Chung is a highly important figure of her time.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)
Role: Classical Artist