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One of the first wave of Oriental string players to benefit from the world-class training on offer in post-war America, Young Uck Kim (born a few months before his compatriot Kyung-Wha Chung) studied with Galamian at the Curtis Institute and was launched onto the US concert stage and national television whilst still a teenager, becoming internationally known by the age of twenty. Bemused by this early success, and feeling that the music profession had swept him up before he was ready, Kim waited until he was twenty-eight before giving a solo recital in New York. When the time came, he presented a heavyweight programme including a Bach Partita, Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and Stravinsky’s Duo Concertant. Several composers have written for him and Kim has collaborated with Gunther Schuller, André Previn, Tobias Picker and Hans Vogt in the preparation of new works for the violin. Other projects have included complete Mozart and Beethoven sonata performances with Peter Serkin. Kim teaches both in America and Korea, where he is also an artistic director of Seoul Arts Centre.

Kim is characterised by a generosity of tone in the modern mainstream of string playing. All the recordings selected here use a warm, pronounced vibrato and show an occasional acceptance of the portamento (as in the third movement of Dvořák’s Op. 65 Trio). The main distinguishing trait of Kim’s playing is indeed the beauty of his sound (The New York Times asked: ‘Who could resist Mr Kim’s exquisite tone and purity?’), but the award-winning Dvořák piano trios have far more than this: there is a sumptuous depth to the enthusiastic interpretation from all three performers which results in a remarkably well-matched ensemble—unusual, perhaps, for players known mainly for their solo attributes.

Kim’s concerto recordings evidence very similar characteristics and are notably accurate and consistent. All show an aesthetic approach in line with majority mainstream practice of the time, with a slight narrowing of vibrato and sense of restraint in his 1988–1989 Mozart concerto recordings, but a warm, full-blooded approach to the 1972 Mendelssohn and Bruch (a standard pairing in the LP era, each work fitting one side of a disc). Throughout Kim’s discography there are fleeting blemishes of intonation, but not enough to detract from his interpretations: these are good, enticing, if not especially original, representations of post-Romantic violin playing.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

Role: Classical Artist 
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