Genius of the Violin: The Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists – Senior Finals (Royal Academy of Music, 3 April)

Symphonie espagnole, Op.21 (excluding the third movement Intermezzo)
Violin Concerto No.3 in B minor, Op.61
Violin Concerto No.5 in A minor, Op.37

Yusuke Hayashi
Hye-Jin Kim
Daniel Khalikov
Je-Hye Lee (violins)

BBC Concert Orchestra
Joji Hattori


Leopold de Rothschild (Chairman)
Paul Badura-Skoda
Miriam Fried
Erich Gruenberg
Dong-Suk Kang
Mayumi Seiler
Maxim Vengerov
Raphael Wallfisch
Donald Weilerstein

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 3 April, 2004
Venue: Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music, London

There was a festive air in the Duke’s Hall, a large audience (including Ida Haendel, playing tonight, 4 April, in the Genius of the Violin closing gala concert) anticipating the competitive spirit, the choice of concertos an undemanding listen if a challenge to the four finalists to negotiate and make music of rather than rampage through. Only four concertos were on the choose-from list; nobody opted for Paganini No.1. The BBC Concert Orchestra under the sympathetic Joji Hattori, himself a violinist, proved the epitome of supportive colleagues; the one miscalculation being the too loud trombones.

19-year-old Yusuke Hayashi, from Japan, opened with four movements of the Lalo, the middle one dropped just as in the ’old’ days. He impressed with easeful bow movements and in his quiet playing. Yet, despite his technical wherewithal, he seemed outside the music, rather studied and playing a ’received’ view of how the piece goes.

Hye-Jin Kim, 18 from Korea, immediately displayed a bigger tone and, should this impress, more stage presence. She was a little premeditated in her charm and fireworks. The big problem was that all three movements of Saint-Saëns’s splendid concerto got bogged down. It wasn’t that the tempos were especially slow; there was simply no direction as Kim continually cut slabs of a rather treacly tart for our delectation. One serving was enough, and while her playing was impressive and likeable, the concerto as a going-somewhere structure was sunk during the first movement.

20-year-old Daniel Khalikov, from Uzbekistan, raised the stakes considerably. He currently studies with Pinchas Zukerman. Khalikov chose the slightly unusual fifth concerto of Vieuxtemps (which Heifetz, Menuhin and Mullova, among others, have recorded, Zukerman too) a single movement of rhetorical orchestral writing, solo cadenzas and pyrotechnics, and touching expression. Khalikov was simply wonderful. He is a natural. He eschewed being flashy, he allowed no mannerism to get in the way of the music, and assumed no exterior personality for the easily impressed punter. With innate Slavic intensity, a beautiful, unforced tone sustained across the range, some superb double stopping, and a gifted command of the violin, Khalikov established himself as a very special player. He got to the core of the music and projected it without affectation.

Je-Hye Lee, another 18-year-old from Korea, rather steely-toned and highly projected in Lalo’s first movement – Hattori matching her with even louder trombones – played in straight lines (horizontal ones, though, unlike Kim’s vertical takes) and relaxed more in the second movement to engaging effect. There was no doubting her facility, her acrobatics, and her professionalism; yet, unlike with Khalikov, one felt that this was a competition performance.

I didn’t stay for the results – the link below should reveal all. Writing this, I don’t know the winner. I hope it is Khalikov. I suspect it will be Lee.

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