It has been over one year since a foreign soloist last performed in Singapore. Travel restrictions imposed by Covid-19 have wreaked havoc on concert schedules involving visiting artists, but this impasse has finally been relaxed with Korean violinist Bomsori Kim appearing with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra this weekend, also giving this solo recital. For the record, the last visiting soloist to perform in Singapore was violinist Philippe Quint way back on 5th March 2020.

Bomsori Kim
© Singapore Symphony Orchestra

In an hour-long programme, Kim showed what the fuss was all about, having signed a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon and being in great demand as a soloist. The Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Violin Partita no. 2 in D minor was an ideal opener, with her exercising a healthily robust tone, unafraid of exhibiting a broad vibrato throughout this unaccompanied work. More importantly, she fully understands the overall architecture of its series of short variations, building arch-like to an impressive climax to complete the edifice. There was a momentary lapse in concentration towards the end, but there was no denying her artistry and instinctual grasp of this masterpiece.

Kim was joined by Singaporean pianist Lim Yan for Beethoven’s popular “Spring” Sonata. Lim is presently the Artistic Director of the Singapore International Piano Festival, and was the first local pianist to perform all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos in a cycle here in 2012. Both violinist and pianist elicited very good chemistry in a genre that specifies the keyboard as the main protagonist.

Bomsori Kim and Lim Yan
© Singapore Symphony Orchestra

In reality, they were equal partners in the sonata’s four movements, radiating genuine warmth and congeniality in the opening Allegro, while also benefiting from a driving impetus in its development. The slow movement’s lyrical charms were not glossed over but lovingly voiced, before the brief Scherzo’s quick-fire repartee had pulses racing again. For the finale, it was a return to the opening’s pastoral qualities, this time with an added urgency that made for an exciting finish.

The obligatory virtuoso showstopper was Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy. The German-born Jewish composer was best known as an Oscar-winning film composer, having composed film scores like Sunset Boulevard, Humoresque and Bride of Frankenstein. Although his Carmen Fantasy is less well-known than Pablo de Sarasate’s – despite essentially having the same popular Bizet tunes – it is a darker work that dwells more on tragedy than surface glitz. The violin part is arguably technically more difficult too, but Kim took these in her stride and the duo romped to a brilliant close.

The clearly-enthused audience was rewarded with two popular encores. The sentimentality of Massenet’s Meditation from Thaïs was milked for all its worth, while the gemütlich charms of Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin raised smiles on a Sunday afternoon well spent.