Titled “Myung-whun Chung's Passion,” the second night of the Festa Summer Muza 2016 in Kawasaki, Japan, celebrated the music of Tchaikovsky with his Violin Concerto and his Symphony no. 4. Located on the southern outskirts of Tokyo, the city of Kawasaki is home to a beautiful structure that houses the MUZA Kawasaki concert hall. Here, the summer Festa sees Japanese orchestras invited to give concerts under the baton of both Japanese and foreign maestros. The second concert featured the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra as well as Clara-Jumi Kang, a Germany-born Korean violin virtuoso, and Myung-Whun Chung, who is also the Honorary Conductor Laureate of the Philharmonic.

Myung-whun Chung © Riccardo Musacchio
Myung-whun Chung
© Riccardo Musacchio

Clara-Jumi Kang, a talented and a promising violinist who is successfully building her international career, delivered a warm, tender and carefully measured rendition in the Violin Concerto. Her expressive opening line in the first movement immediately grabbed the ears of the audience. She was sometimes overpowered by the highly skilled orchestra, but the balance only kept improving as the long movement progressed. The hall, which seats near 2000, carried every detail of sound, and the layout of the seats, arranged in an oval shape and in tiers like in the Suntory Hall, made the listeners feel as they were onstage. Even with a near full house, the resonance of the solo and the orchestra was mostly just right.

Kang’s execution of the cadenza was not excessively romantic but was certainly well-controlled and exhibited her deep understanding of the repertoire. The lyrical “Canzonetta” was beautifully drawn together with accomplished woodwind soli from the orchestra, and the performers maintained their focus right until the final chord of the dance-like third movement. As an encore, Kang performed the "Largo" from Bach’s Solo Violin Sonata No. 3, which contrasted strongly in atmosphere to the Violin Concerto, providing audience with breathing space before the second half of the concert.

The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra's high level of artistry was in full evidence with Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. Each individual in the ensemble, especially the woodwinds and percussion section, played extraordinarily well, the full-ensemble work in the tutti sections particularly impressive. The conversational fanfare-like opening of the brass and horns in the first movement was clear in intonation, volume, and expression, and not overly bold or unnecessarily over-controlled. One of the many highlights of the concert was expressed in the third movement, where the strings use pizzicato for almost half of the movement.

The togetherness of the sound in the strings was so accurate that it was like listening to a small chamber ensemble, though one with a large sound. Nevertheless, the range of sound dynamics could have been wider especially in the quiet sections, which might have been a result of the sensitive acoustics of the hall.

After such a strong performance there was however no encore from the orchestra, though they and Chung, who performed both main pieces from memory, received minutes of applause. It was evident that the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra proved itself one of the leading orchestras in Japan, and the successful collaboration between Chung and Kang made for a pleasurable and memorable musical experience.

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