TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
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The program began with Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 21 in E Minor, K. 304, written in Paris as one of the “Palatinate” sonatas. The violin and piano, often in unison or mimicking one another were a true collaboration. Chung and Kenner expressed both the brilliant energy and lyrical beauty of the second movement as one. As an overture to the concert, it told the story of true partnership.

Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 7 in C Minor, op. 30, no. 2 followed. Once again, the striking artistry of both Chung and Kenner came through this passionately powerful, almost symphonic work, one of the finest sonatas of the violin repertoire. Beethoven saved the key of C Minor for works of enormous import, like his Pathétique Sonata and Symphony No 5. The foreboding opening of the piano followed by the violin’s iteration of the principal theme, gave a dark and mysterious tone that was soon overshadowed by a playfulness only to return. I can’t recall ever been so affected by the second movement. Both the piano introduction to the theme and the violin line that followed captured a musical instant of uncompromising beauty.

Following intermission, the duo returned with César Franck’s Sonata in A Major, M. 8. Once again, Chung and Kenner chose music from the heart of the violin sonata repertoire. The theme that recurs throughout the work is at times sweet and at others stormy, reaching a triumphant conclusion in the finale.  As impressive as the thick textures produced by technical feats on both violin and piano were, even more impressive were the tension-filled moments of tenderness and longing.

To call Chung and Kenner virtuosic, is to minimize their artistry unless one considers the derivation of the term in “virtue”. It is the truth of their artistry rather than unabashed technical razzmatazz that separates them from the crowded list of solo performers. The spontaneous standing ovation and enthusiasm for an encore, Schubert’s Sonatina No. 1 in D Major, op. 137, (Mov’t II and III), told me that the audience was in full agreement.

Tomorrow afternoon, Sunday March 8th 2020, the acclaimed French pianist, Hélène Grimaud will complete the weekend offerings that celebrate International Women’s Day. On Friday, April 3rd, 2020 violinist Pamela Frank and pianist Emanuel Ax will perform a program of Mozart and Beethoven, continuing the Royal Conservatory’s two-year festival of the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, on the occasion of his 250th birthday.

Kevin Kenner; Photo credit: sempremusica.com

Kyung Wha Chung; Photo credit: kyungwhachung.com

This Sunday marks International Women’s Day with its theme, “An Equal World Is an Enabled World”. It may or may not have been coincidental that on this weekend, two of the world’s outstanding female musicians are performing to full houses at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall. Last night, the incomparable violinist, Kyung Wha Chung, returned to Toronto after many years to make her Koerner Hall debut. Her supreme artistry and soulful approach to the core violin repertoire was apparent from the first notes she played. 


​Chung chose sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven and Franck to perform in this concert, music that displayed both scintillating sonorities and soulful melodies. It became an evening of heartfelt emotion. Together with pianist, Kevin Kenner, the music was as expressively beautiful as one could imagine. They took their time with the music. Every note and every phrase were carefully shaped. Even before they began playing, as she patiently acknowledged the audience including those high above and behind her, and as she waited good-naturedly for a few stragglers to find their seats, she gave the signal that she would make every musical moment count.

The concert was for me an introduction to the American pianist Kevin Kenner, a past winner or the Chopin International Competition who first collaborated with Chung ten years ago. It was my first chance to hear his uncompromising musicianship. 

Kyung Wha Chung and Kevin Kenner reach to the core of violin repertoire!

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 7th 2020