Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck, Jules Massenet, Camille Saint-Saëns, Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky, Franz Waxman, Henryk Wieniawski
Performer: Bomsori Kim
Orchestra: NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Giancarlo Guerrero
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 1.3 GB
01. Wieniawski: Polonaise brilliante No. 1 in D major, Op. 4
02. Wieniawski: Légende in G minor, Op. 17
03. Wieniawski: Fantaisie brillante on themes from Gounod’s Faust, Op. 20
04. Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker: Pas de deux
05. Waxman: Carmen Fantasy
06. Gluck: Dance of the Blessed Spirits (from Orfeo ed Euridice)
07. Massenet: Meditation (from Thaïs)
08. Saint-Saëns: Introduction & Rondo capriccioso, Op. 28
09. Saint-Saëns: Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix (from Samson et Dalila)
It doesn’t always follow that serial international competition winners go on to make either recordings or careers that win over the “real world” critics. However Bomsori Kim has done so. Regarding the latter, her concert calendar is full of invitations to prestigious festivals and halls, concerto appearances with major orchestras and conductors, and chamber collaborations with other young names who are fast making names for themselves. As for recordings, there was her well-received 2017 debut album on Warner, imaginatively pairing Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (Kim having carried off no less than eleven prizes at the 2016 Wieniawski Competition) with Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Then came her strong 2019 debut on Deutsche Grammophon, partnering with pianist pianist Rafał Blechacz for Violin Sonatas by Fauré, Debussy and Szymanowski. So the stage was fully set for her orchestral debut on DG to be an impactful one.
Now that it’s here, “Violin on Stage” is certainly impactful in certain regards. A programme of works written for or inspired by opera or ballet, it further cements Kim’s affinity for Poland’s music and musicians, both by her partners being the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic under Giancarlo Guerrero, and by its being topped and tailed by more Wieniawski – culminating in his 17 and a half minute showpiece, the Fantasia on Themes from Gounod’s “Faust” . The album equally cements the impression of her as an immensely lyrical violinist with a clean, sweetly singing sound which dances with balletic suppleness; indeed if any violinist’s sound were a perfect fit for a programme evoking the worlds of ballet and opera then it’s Kim’s, and her playing confirms that in spadefuls, whether it’s her elegantly fiery, twinkle-toed rendition of Waxman’s Carmen-Fantasie, or the sweetly melancholic, singing romance she brings to Gluck’s Dance of the Blessed Spirits, appearing here in a new transcription for violin and orchestra. Which brings me to the programme’s final theme, of following in the footsteps of the likes of Heifetz and Milstein in championing the culture of virtuoso violin transcriptions of popular works – and the Pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is also heard in a new transcription.
So lots of positives. Yet overall, I can’t help but feel that this programme hasn’t quite done Kim justice. In attractively frothy, easy listening terms it’s a winner, and there’s nothing wrong in principle in skipping the main course to head straight for the Chantilly. It’s also very welcome to have a violinist so clearly dedicated to championing Wieniawski’s often-overlooked, highly virtuosic music. But ultimately she made a far stronger case for taking Wieniawski seriously on that aforementioned Warner debut. Plus, there’s very little real emotional or stylistic contrast to be heard across this programme’s succession of crowd-pleasing shorts. Or sense of surprise. Even massively-recorded pieces such as the Massenet Méditation will pack a punch when cleverly programmed, but here it merely blends in. Consequently, while “Violin on Stage” amply displays all Kim’s elegance, charm and technique, I’m already crossing fingers that her next orchestral foray with DG might be more clearly reflective of her concert diary rather than of playlist culture, and give her the chance to properly display her interpretative and creative programming mettle. In the meantime though, this is at least very stylishly done.