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Korean Violinist MinJin at the Wigmore Hall

By John Sidgwick

LONDON - 25 September 2001 - In boxing terms, the Korean violinist MinJin might be put into the featherweight class. But make no mistake about it: this slight-framed young woman, now in her twenty-third year, packs a punch that could make many of the heavyweights rock back on their heels.

On her second appearance at the Wigmore Hall in eighteen months in the company of the pianist Gordon Back, she performed a programme made up of relentless demands in musicality and virtuosity and she met these with consummate power, ease and charm.

As a self-confessed admirer of Fritz Kreisler, she opened her recital with a forthright and lyrical account of the great violinist's short Grave in the style of W.F.Bach, an excellent introduction to Beethoven's Sonata in G, op. 30 no 3 in which she and the pianist were admirable in expressiveness and sensitivity. Indeed, in the slow movement, there were overtones of the legendary recording of the work by Kreisler and Rachmaninov. Yet the whole of the performance was imbued with the purest clacissism.

This was followed by Ravel's Sonata No. 1 in G, a vast change of mood, and it was fascinating to observe just how well MinJin succeeded in capturing both the "Frenchness" of the work and its transatlantic savour. Rarely can the "blues" movement have been performed with such seductive conviction both by violinist and pianist.

The second half of the concert could be awarded the title "Fiddler's Delight". Works by Prokofiev (his challenging Sonata for solo violin in D op 115), by Paganini, Massenet and Sarasate were performed with a combination of charm, breath-taking virtuosity and the occasional moment of sheer fun - MinJin is one of the few violinists around who can make you want to laugh out loud with the enjoyment of a simple turn of phrase. As for her rendering of Ruggiero Ricci's adaptation of Francisco Tarrega's great guitar piece, Recuerso de la Alhambra, there are not many adjectives around to describe it, but "bewitching" has to be amongst them.

There can be no doubt that MinJin's playing is now firmly marked with the stamp of her mentor, Ruggiero Ricci, whose wise counsel over recent years has enabled her to retain all her individuality yet at the same time acquire the means to express it with security and conviction. Her tone is free and of impressive power. Her left-hand technique is dazzling, yet her playing is driven by her bow arm, always the hall mark of a great string player.

A packed house at the Wigmore Hall last night made it abundantly clear that it was full of gratitude for an enchanting display of old-fashioned musical values.

John Sidgwick writes on music in Britain and France for Culturekiosque.com.

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