The Strad Issue: January 2009
Musicians: Soovin Kim (violin) Jeremy Denk (piano) Jupiter Quartet
Composer: Chausson, Fauré

Soovin Kim is a young American violinist who here teams up with Jeremy Denk for the second time on disc. It is also Kim’s second recording for Azica; the first, his 2006 recording of Paganini’s Caprices, earnt critical acclaim.

Chausson’s Concert is unusually scored, and one can’t help but feel that the string quartet is rather underused, especially when its contributions are as sumptuous as the Jupiter’s here. Its dreamy interjections in the first movement are rather obscured by Denk’s bright Steinway in the context of the acoustic used, although the energy that he and Kim generate almost dispenses with the need for a third voice. Nevertheless, the quartet comes into its own in the second movement, complementing the freshness of Kim’s melody with delicate punctuations. The Grave is the highlight, as Denk initially renounces his rather forward sound in favour of a shadowy tone, while the stillness of Kim’s playing conveys a sense of grief that later spills over and prompts a severity reminiscent of Shostakovich from the quartet.

Fauré’s First Violin Sonata affords more room for virtuosity for both piano and violin. Kim manages the speed of the outer Allegros with a grace that is somehow also languid at times, while his cascades of spiccato in the third movement never threaten to disturb the faultless give-and-take between violin and piano. Denk, meanwhile, adds a playful intensity to the first movement and produces a refreshingly soft-edged tone in the Andante.

These interpretations are often more forceful than some lovers of French music might like, but on the other hand there’s a joie de vivre that makes the disc recommendable.    

Chris Elcombe