Beethoven & Mendelssohn from Min-Jung Kym

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 & Mendelssohn: Double Concerto

Min-Jung Kym (piano), Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay (violin), Philharmonia Orchestra, Clemens Schuldt (conductor)

This is the first album that Min-Jung Kym a, British pianist from South Korea, has recorded for Signum records¹. On it she performs my favourite of the Beethoven piano concertos. She is accompanied by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Clemens Schuldt, an exciting young conductor from Germany. However, in some ways the most enticing prospect here is Mendelssohn’s seldom-heard Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra in D Minor, MWV O 4, a charming piece written when Felix was just 14 years old.

In the video below you can hear an extract from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58 and Min-Jung Kym talks about her relationship with the piece.

Can a pianist introduce themselves with anything better than the G major concerto beginning as it does with a solo piano? Min-Jung Kym plays the opening exquisitely gently and appropriately questioningly. Min-Jung’s poetic approach shows both gentleness and lyricism. This is beautifully balanced by the boldness and vitality of the orchestra whose trumpets and drums assist in making suitably powerful responses to the pianist’s sweeping phrases. The soloist and orchestra combine most effectively in this performance thanks to a mutual understanding of the work shared by Min-Jung and Clemens Schuldt. Although, in a very crowded market place, this would not be my first choice for this great work (that remains Leif Ove Andsnes with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra²) this performance provides a most pleasing introduction to this talented young artist.

For the second work on this recording the performers are joined by Min-Jung’s duo partner, the German-Hungarian violinist Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay. The Double Concerto, like Mendelssohn’s early string symphonies, shows a greater affinity to the music of C P E Bach  than to the early romantics and is thus classical in nature. The work follows the standard three movement structure of fast-slow-fast, with a lengthy orchestral introduction before Min-Jung Kym joins in; although the violinist does begin as part of the orchestra. One cannot claim that this concerto is on a par with Mendelssohn’s later works. However it positively exudes melody and shows an astonishing mastery of orchestral writing for one so young. In particular the slow movement contains some especially fine music. Here Min-Jung Kym and Zsolt-Tihamér Visontay perform with a beautiful sense of togetherness, producing a fine tone and showing a lightness of touch fully in keeping with the classical nature of the work. This performance is a most valuable addition to the available recordings of the double concerto and I shall listen to it frequently.

Both works are well-recorded and the CD comes with an informative booklet containing an introduction from the main soloist, notes on each of the two works, profiles of the main artists and a full listing of all performers.

Overall a splendid debut from Min-Jung Kym on Signum Classics and I look forward to her next release with keen interest.

iClassical rating: 

Stream on Spotify or Idagio. Purchase from Amazon.

¹ I am aware of an earlier recording of works for double bass and piano, composed by Josep Cervera-Bret, on the Meridian label that also features Min-Jung Kym.

² Also admired by Min-Jung Kym, I note from the accompanying booklet.