Violinist Park Ji-hae shocks and rocks the house

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Violinist Park Ji-hae shocks and rocks the house

Korean-German violinist Park Ji-hae may appear meek and quiet, but when she has her violin, she rocks.


Violinist Park Ji-hae performs at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, kicking off her “World Tour 2016.” [HAEHWA JHP]

On Thursday evening, at her solo concert at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, she literally rocked out on her violin, showing off her interpretations of classical music pieces in rock music style, some of which are compiled on her album “Baroque in Rock” that was released in 2013.

Park’s concert on Thursday kicked off her “World Tour 2016,” which will travel to three cities in China in August and then to Washington, New York and Los Angeles from September to November. Last year, she performed in five large cities across Korea through the “Korea Super Tour,” which sold out all five venues.

First-timers to one of her performances may have been surprised to see such a slender woman, who appeared on the stage with a sheepish grin, adorned in a pure white off-shoulder chiffon dress with her hair nicely curled and tied in a half ponytail, suddenly releasing so much energy through her violin.

Park had to reign in her energy, or at least her rock spirit, during the first half of the concert, as it was focused more on traditional classical pieces like Beethoven’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano Op 24: Spring,” Monti’s “Czardas” and Vitali’s “Choconne in G Minor.” But she did allow it to burst forth when performing “Jihae-Arirang” - the traditional Korean folk song arranged by Park in a rock music style.

The song starts off mournfully and slowly on Park’s violin, not so different from other versions of “Arirang.” But about halfway through the song, a five-member band joined in - one on drums, two on electric guitars, one on bass guitar and one on keyboard - and they rocked their way through to the end.

After the intermission, Park showed off Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons Op. 8,” one of the most popular pieces of Baroque music, going from the “Spring” through to “Winter” in her rock violin style.

Musicians of the Baroque period - the era for which the name Baroque itself means “misshapen,” “bizarre” or “extravagant” - weren’t afraid of bringing out intense emotions in their music. Such a musical style that was prevalent during this period between 1600 and 1750 certainly has appeal to today’s rock musicians. And musicians who play classical instruments like Park have again been inspired by these rock musicians who were influenced by Baroque music, and have created numerous electrifying rock versions of parts of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” But Park is the first musician ever to perform the full “Four Seasons” in rock style.

And her efforts deserve applause. Some of the pieces, like “Summer,” for example, require a tremendous level of fingering skill, and Park managed to play all the notes. It would have been better to allow the audience to become totally immersed in Park’s astonishing technique at this point; however, the media art being projected on the large screen in the background showing random designs and images of sunshine, thunder storms, autumn leaves and snow as if to help explain the music as Park played instead only served to distract the listener’s imagination.

There were realistic limitations as well in making a classical violin sound like an electric violin, such as the occasional high-pitched squeals and squeaks, and the sounds of the classical instrument clashed with the electric guitars on several occasions.

Throughout the show, Park definitely showed the audience that she not only knows how to play her violin but also to play with her violin, to the extent that her violin was sitting so comfortably on her left shoulder that it looked more like a toy than a musical instrument, even though it is probably worth millions. Perhaps this is because a violin was her first toy as a baby, given to her by her violinist mother.

Born in Mainz, Germany, Park gained admission to a music conservatory there when she was just 14 years old, with the school bending its own rule of only accepting students older than 16. She won first place in a German national youth music competition for two straight years in 2002 and 2003. In 2011, she made her debut at the renowned Carnegie Hall in New York.

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