Min–Jin Kym & Ian Brown

Sonata for Piano and Violin in B flat, K454
Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor, Op.108
Violin Sonata No.1 in A, Op.13

Min-Jin Kym (violin) & Ian Brown (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 26 May, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Min-Jin Kym, just under 30, began playing the violin at the age of six. A year later, she was accepted as a scholar at the Purcell School of Music on a full scholarship with the distinction of being the school’s youngest-ever pupil. In 2004 she became the first–ever recipient of the Jascha Heifetz Society’s prize. Ian Brown is her frequent concert partner. He has been pianist to the Nash Ensemble since 1978 – the year of Min-Jin Kym’s birth – and is distinguished as soloist, accompanist and conductor.

The partnership between these two performers is an amazing match. They are both, one might say, detached romantics. They have a cool, pointed style of playing. It is vigorous yet slightly remote emotionally, energetic yet meticulously observant of details of a score. Min-Jin Kym’s manner is the more dramatic of the two; Ian Brown is more laconic – he pedals rarely and is a master of staccato.

Their playing of Mozart was a delight. They had the measure of the composer’s reticence, poise, vigour, elegance and his passing dolour. This was incisive acute playing, with a keen sense of form, phrase and style. They responded to the forward drive of the music – but also highlighted isolated notes, giving them a heightened, pointed resonance. This was music-making with rapiers.

They brought the same qualities to Brahms’s sonata. I was less happy here, though I continued to admire the stylish playing. This cool, lyrical Brahms, though highly energetic, was neither full-blooded nor from the heart. It constituted a reprieve for those who find Brahms’s warm, passionate turbulence disconcerting.

Fauré’s sonata suited the pair better. His romanticism is passionate and lively, but less urgently robust than Brahms. His romantic ardour has a lighter, more airy touch. The Andante was spellbinding – limpid, vocal, intertwining the voices of piano and violin as a real duo. The finale, played with assurance and aplomb, was a brisk, swirling autumnal breeze, forceful and fervent – a continuation of the previous movement, but more intense and, of course, faster. Min-Jin Kym and Ian Brown brought Fauré’s work, for which they evinced so much sympathy, to an exhilarating climax.

As encores – delineating the range of Min-Jin Kym’s style with point and precision – were a Brahms Hungarian Dance of hair-raising vitality followed by a totally unsentimental but most tender Salut d’Amour from Elgar.

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