Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 12
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
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Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster Kim Electrifies Audience With Tchaikovsky Concerto

Nancy Plum

The Princeton Symphony Orchestra looked to Boston for the guest conductor of the ensemble’s concert this past weekend; Julian Kuerti has been assistant conductor to Boston Symphony’s James Levine since February 2007. For Sunday afternoon’s performance in Richardson Auditorium, Mr. Kuerti borrowed from another Big 5 orchestra in selecting a soloist for the key work on the Russian/Eastern European program, bringing in violinist David Kim to thrill the audience with Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major.

For the past ten years and through two music directors, an interim music director and countless guest conductors, David Kim has been in the Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster chair, interpreting conductor nuances conveyed with varying degrees of clarity and keeping a tight reign on the precision of the ensemble.

Mr. Kim has become a cornerstone of the orchestra through his leadership at the helm of the violin section and his commitment to developing the audiences of tomorrow, but he also has made equally as significant forays into solo concerto literature. As soloist in the Tchaikovsky violin concerto with the Princeton Symphony, Mr. Kim brought from the concertmaster position rhythmic precision and the realization that the solo concerto was not all about him.

Princeton Symphony Orchestra’s season will close on Sunday, April 26 in a concert featuring guest conductor Scott Yoo conducting music of Mozart, Bartok, and Tchaikovsky, with Soyeon Lee playing Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3. For information call (609) 497-0020.

A review of the premiere of Tchaikovsky’s work in 1881 claimed that “the violin is no longer played; it is rent asunder, beaten black and blue.” Achieving this effect would have been impossible for Mr. Kim on his 1757 Guadagnini violin, and playing a late 19th century concerto on a mid-18th century instrument, he brought accuracy and clarity to the work while taking his time in the cadenzas and allowing each note time to speak, no matter where in the register. This was playing which was highly accessible to an audience that could hear every note in every passage, and the full house at Richardson ate it up with an enthusiasm not seen for many soloists in Princeton.

A deliberate and careful conductor, Mr. Kuerti found a nice flow to the first movement of the concerto, building the dynamic well leading to the soloist’s entry. Clean brass also punctuated this movement, along with chipper wind solos from flutist Jayn Rosenfeld, oboist Caroline Park, and piccolo player Amy Wolfe. The third movement Finale brought a quieter kind of fire from the solo violin, and showed solid rhythmic precision between soloist and ensemble, especially when Mr. Kim was accompanied by pizzicato strings.

Mr. Kuerti and the Princeton Symphony demonstrated an ability to find variety in the music in the three selections from Bedrich Smetana’s Má Vlast, a suite of tone poems about the Prague region. These three pieces had a number of mini-stories within them, with each phrase playing a different part in the story. The opening “Šárka” was marked by well-handled tempo changes, clear trombones, and a smooth clarinet solo played by Pascal Archer. Oboes and bassoons were nicely blended in the second selection, “From Bohemia’s Meadows and Forests,” accompanied by undulating violas and cellos. Mr. Kuerti maneuvered the shift between the “storylines” well, and the fugato theme was well played by all, but especially by bassoonist Roe Goodman.

Although Mr. Kuerti led the Princeton Symphony and held the concert together well, it was clear from audience reaction that the true star of the evening was Mr. Kim, who most surely would be welcome back to Princeton at any time.

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