Mark Gresham | 12 MAR 2020
With concern over spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus growing rapidly, video streaming of concerts has found yet another important reason for its contributions to the performing arts culture at large in addition to providing access to those who do not have easy access to some venues due to limited transportation options. Kennesaw State University has been somewhat unique in their consistency of providing, over the internet, live video streams of concerts at Morgan Hall, located in KSU’s Bailey Performance Center. The most recent one we’ve heard, performed on Monday evening, was a recital by violinist Helen Hwaya Kim and pianist Robert Henry. EarRelevant took advantage of that video streaming for purposes of this review.
The mics seemed a little too hot, and not fully isolated from floor noise – footsteps sounded like banging on a metal storage drum – but the performance came across well despite having to accept some boomy sound in the process.
Kim started the program alone with the substantial “Passacaglia” from the Mystery Sonatas by Heinrich Biber, a 17th century Bihemian-Austrian composer and violinist. It is one of the earliest known works for solo violin. While Biber may not be a household name to many listeners, his music, especially the Mystery Sonatas, enjoyed a revival In the late 20th century. Kim’s straight-toned playing attractively reflected the general performance practices of the work’s early Baroque origin.
Heny joined Kim onstage for works by two women composers, Three romances, Op. 22, by Clara Schumann, and the Deux Morceaux by Lili Boulanger. Then they concluded the first half with Fratres (“Brothers”) by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt – a work that seems to be getting relatively frequent local performances recently in various transcriptions.
After intermission, Kim and Henry tackled the biggest work on the program and one of the most significant pieces in violin and piano repertoire: César Franck’s Sonata in A major. Franck’s sole violin sonata, the piece is a “cyclic” work in that all movements share common thematic materials that are transformed over its duration.
Interesting that the final piece played was an arrangement of George Gershwin: “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy and Bess. The Atlanta Opera is currently midway through its production of Porgy and Bess, and Kim is the assistant concertmaster of the orchestra. It served as a nice insider’s nod to the opera company and Kim’s opera orchestra colleagues. ■