Mentor and mentee reunite for duo recital

By Shim Woo-hyun

Violinist Chung Kyung-wha, pianist Cho Seong-jin reunite for duo recital

  • Published : Sept 10, 2018 - 17:57
  • Updated : Sept 10, 2018 - 17:57

Violinist Chung Kyung-wha and pianist Cho Seong-jin will hold a duo concert at the Seoul Arts Center on Wednesday, part of a nationwide tour that started Sept. 1.

The tour marks the first time in six years that the two classical music virtuosos have performed together. The last time, in 2012, Cho was a high school senior.

Violinist Chung Kyung-wha and pianist Cho Seong-jin speak during a press conference at Seoul Arts Center on Monday. (Yonhap)

“I remember it was in Jinju around six years ago, when I first played with him. At the time, I immediately found Seong-jin to be a pianist with focus, maturity, talent and a strong commitment to music,” Chung said during a press conference at the Seoul Arts Center on Monday.

“Before I met Seong-jin, I first got to hear about him from my brother, Chung Myung-whun, who seldom pays compliments. (In 2009), he said he had never seen a kid with such talent, the only exception being Radu Lupu,” Chung added.

Chung spoke with excitement about the experience of working with Cho.

“During some 70 years of my musical life, I have learned the importance of partnership -- the one between the violinist and the pianist,” Chung said. “Cho has also been one of a few pianist partners with whom I had a memorable and in-depth musical experience. I can probably count them on the fingers of one hand -- Peter Frankl, Christian Zimmermann, Radu Lupu and Kevin Kenner.”

Recalling their first meeting, the younger musician said, “It was 2011 when I first met mentor Chung, and since then I have always consulted with her if I had concerns.

“Back then, I had not had much experience in duo performances. There were many difficulties, and I was nervous. I am not sure if I can say this, but it has been so much fun this time.”

Cho added, “She always tried to help as if it were her problem. She is the one I can call my mentor.”

Chung and Cho have played five concerts together as part of their current tour, but both said the upcoming performance at the Seoul Arts Center would be different.

“I think the stage requires improvisation, though you prepare the given scores. Cho has been the perfect partner in that regard. He has been so good with building up and supporting improvisation rendered on the stage,” Chung said.

“The ‘pianistical-ity’ of Cho, the capacity to bring rich colors of the same piece has been inspiring to me as well. The upcoming concert will be another sort, I believe.”

The program comprises sonatas written for the violin and piano by Franck, Beethoven, Schumann and Bach. The selection is the result of years of discussion between the two and many revisions.

“I asked mentor Chung if she could play Franck with me about six years ago. The day has finally come, and I am really happy with that,” Cho said.

The evening concert will open with Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903, widely known for its chromatic melody, or for the startling modulations.

The Bach piece will be followed by Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor, Op. 30, No. 2. Both Chung and Cho commented on the difficulty of expressing this piece.

“One day, after playing the Beethoven piece, Cho came to me and said the piece was difficult. The piece had troubled me for a long time, I remember. It requires an immense amount of discipline. You have to be very sensitive to perform the piece as well.”

When sharing her impression of Cho’s performance, Chung said, “There is this scale that comes like thunder. Cho, who looks very composed and does not vent his anger, played the piece full of anger. Art is not about how much theoretical understanding you have. Art can be done if you have intuition.”

Cho recalled one of their rehearsals.

“While we were rehearsing one day, I told mentor Chung that I had never let out my anger at someone else. I think I am quite composed. I don’t get easily agitated. But it is a little different when I am doing music. I think I express my emotions by playing music.”

After the intermission, the two will perform Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor, Op. 105, and the finale will be Franck’s Violin Sonata in A major.

Chung recorded the Franck piece with Radu Lupu in 1980 and again with pianist Kevin Kenner as part of their most recent duo album, “Beau Soir.”

“Cho is young. But he is not naive. He studies hard and (gives it his utmost when he practices). He also has the stubbornness to stick up for what he believes is right and what he loves,” Chung said. “I will be just grateful to watch him grow and to support his music,” Chung added.

The duo concert between the older violinist and the young pianist was organized by the Seoul Arts Center on the occasion of its 30th anniversary.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)