Does Brahms' music keep people young? It certainly looked so for the Chung siblings who, veteran performers, delivered a phenomenal performance of the Violin Concerto in D major with the renowned Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. These two legendary musicians, Maestro Myung-whun Chung and Kyung Wha Chung, exhibited unceasing energy and passion.

Kyung Wha Chung © ICA Artists | Kang Taewook
Kyung Wha Chung
© ICA Artists | Kang Taewook

Brahms' concerto has more than two minutes of orchestral introduction until the solo violin comes in, and the Philharmonic set the level of artistry quite high in these first two minutes by clear and focused tone, creating the right Brahmsian mood for the soloist. The Philharmonic was a bit slow in bringing down its overall volume when Ms. Chung entered, but the oneness between ensemble and soloist was strong throughout the entire piece. Ms. Chung at many times seemed like she was playing more than just a violin but also conducting the entire orchestra whilst playing, with energetic body movements, musical gestures and expressions. On the podium, Myung-whun Chung seemed to conduct with minimal motion, as if not to get in the way between Ms. Chung and the Philharmonic's duet-like playing. Ms. Chung's cadenza was truly breathtaking, filling the entire concert hall with her unmatched sonority and virtuosity.

The calm, but no less intense, second movement was virtuously detailed, and Ms. Chung showed us that there is always more to learn and explore in Brahms’ masterpieces. No words can fully describe her deep passion for music and her level of artistry, and in this beautiful and emotion-filled Adagio, she delivered mature sonority and musical expression. The Philharmonic’s oboist assisted in creating this gorgeous movement, with impeccable intonation and a lyrical performance. The segue into the third movement quickly changed the mood to a Hungarian Dance-like setting, adding to the technical flair. Ms. Chung’s exuberant style even exceeded her already-legendary reputation, tireless through the near 45-minute performance, followed by an encore: the Adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata no. 1 in G minor.

The second half of the concert was Saint-Saëns Symphony no. 3 in C minor, known as the “Organ Symphony”. Even though the organ part isn’t necessarily used as a solo, despite the moniker (it only appears in two of the four movements), the additional timbre certainly creates more orchestral colour and sonority. The performance again demonstrated the high level of the Philharmonic: wide and defined range of dynamics, sensitive and delicate gestures making Saint-Saëns’ music come alive. Maestro Chung's simple but easy-to-understand gestures were a perfect fit. This Saint-Saëns' symphony is interesting as one can hear the “motto” theme being transformed throughout the entire piece, and the piano (also part of the instrumentation) plays arpeggios and scales, adding another layer of intriguing sound contour. 

Both Brahms and Saint-Saëns' music beautifully weave lyrical melodies into rich orchestral sonorities. Such complex but genius artistry was handsomely delivered by the Chung siblings and the Tokyo’s finest ensemble. 

****1