Chung Kyung-wha Joins Interpreters of Vivaldi's Masterwork

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Chung Kyung-wha Joins Interpreters of Vivaldi's Masterwork

It is the classical piece that gave Antonio Vivaldi's name some of the same cachet as that of J. S. Bach, the great master of Baroque music. It is the work that has become so popular that it has been arranged for an array of instruments, classical and non-classical alike, such as the flute, xylophone, recorder and guitar. It has even been performed a cappella.

The piece is Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons," a collection of four concertos for the violin, considered to be the litmus test for evaluating the talent of violinists and composers. Vivaldi's most famous work seems to be everywhere. Walk into an elevator, restaurant or department store, and "The Four Seasons" drifts into your ears. Listen to a film soundtrack or watch an advertisement and it can often be heard. Vivaldi apparently wrote four sonnets as inspiration for "The Four Seasons" - the sonnets appeared in the original score and are assumed to be his work - and they are as much a part of the concertos as the violin. The musical piece is a like a story filled with vivid images, and for new listeners, a good introduction to classical music.

Chung Kyung-wha, 51, a renowned Korean violinist, has recorded Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons" on the EMI label . She not only played the solo lead instrument but also conducted the accompanying orchestra, the St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble of the United States. The Korean edition of the CD comes with a video CD which contains footage of her musical performance along with explanatory narration by the violinist herself. Turn the CD on, and you immediately feel as if you are in a concert hall watching Ms. Chung perform, conduct and narrate the four concertos.

One may wonder what compelled Ms. Chung to record "The Four Seasons," when there are already over 100 recordings of the work available. To violinists, "The Four Seasons" is like Mt. Everest to experienced climbers: a great challenge that they feel must be tackled once in their lifetime. Renowned throughout the world as a work that requires technical dexterity, "The Four Seasons" is one of the peaks of the classical music landscape. Felix Ayo, Salvatore Accardo, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Gil Shaham, Victoria Mulova, Elma Oliveira, Pinchas Zukerman, Gidon Kramer, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Fabio Biondi are just some of the accomplished violinists who have recorded the famous piece.

Ms. Chung's rendition, though, is different from many interpretations that display speedy fingering and a lightning-like tempo. Instead, Ms. Chung focuses on a richer sound by playing more slowly, eschewing the usual light and cheerful approach.

Her recording of "The Four Seasons" can be compared to a four-act opera, with the violin as the prima donna who, act by act, dramatically describes nature's cycles. Ms. Chung has wonderfully succeeded in bringing to life the beauty of Vivaldi's musical notes.
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