So-Ock Kim & Alexei Grynyuk

Violin Sonata
Sonata for solo violin
Sonata for violin and piano in A, Op.47 (Kreutzer)

So-Ock Kim (violin) & Alexei Grynyuk (piano)

Reviewed by: Douglas Cooksey

Reviewed: 30 January, 2006
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

To open with Janáček’s enigmatic Sonata was bold indeed since it is highly demanding both musically and technically; on this occasion such boldness paid off with Ukrainian-born Alexei Grynyuk having a special feel for this music with its abrupt switches of mood and moments of stillness, and his partnership with So-Ock Kim, born in Korea but domiciled in London since the age of 3, was very much one of equals. The sonata’s third movement with its Moravian dance tune vividly evokes the magical summer night of Act Two of “Katya Kabanova” and is relatively straightforward, but all the movements, especially the closing Adagio, are cryptic in varying degrees so it was a particularly fine achievement that the duo should have left us with the sense of inhabiting Janáček’s soundworld so completely.

Even more impressive was Bartók’s substantial unaccompanied Sonata. This was a performance of remarkable assurance and technical control. Playing from memory, So-Ock Kim attacked the ‘Fugue’ with playing of controlled power and aggression and yet found the requisite stillness at the heart of the succeeding Adagio. With never an ugly sound in this excruciatingly challenging music, her intonation was exemplary. As for other Far-Eastern violinists (Kyung-Wha Chung and Midori), Bartók’s music seems to speak with remarkable directness to Korean and Japanese performers; perhaps the bracing sounds of the bowed instruments of the Korean court orchestra, the A-jaeng and Hai-keum, find a distant echo in Bartók’s music; for whatever reason this was the highpoint of the evening.

Regrettably the Kreutzer was rather less satisfactory; Kim sounded altogether less comfortable in the Beethoven, frenetic activity often lurching to becalmed moments in which tensions dissipated. Grynyuk, fortunately no mere accompanist, exhibited a fine sense of style, but despite his contribution the performance failed to build across paragraphs or culminate satisfactorily. Maybe these two excellent young musicians might have been wiser to tackle the Spring Sonata rather than the Kreutzer’s Himalayan peak.

I missed the Mexican composer’s name, but the evening was rounded off with the most mellifluous encore imaginable.

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