Charming Chee-Yun's effortless excellence

Buffalo News

Surely when musicologists years from now debate the relative merits of various concerts in Buffalo's historic Ramsi P. Tick Memorial Concert Series, Chee-Yun's concert will go down as the most charming.

The Korean-born violinist is a dream of a performer.

Beautiful, with long black hair, she wafted from the wings wearing a white gown, Grecian in its simplicity. Pianist Jeewon Park wore a long, lovely black and gold gown. Someone pointed out that they matched the colors of Holy Trinity's sanctuary. Had they planned that?

Chee-Yun spoke freely between selections. She explained why she had chosen to play Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata. And how the Stradivarius she was playing had just celebrated its 300th birthday.

She was never on autopilot, not for a second. Not even in the Mozart Sonata in C, K. 296, that came first. Throughout a lot of this seldom-heard piece, the piano dominates. Chee-Yun was as much accompanist as soloist.

But she played every note as if it were her last. In the Andante- a beautiful movement Mozart modeled after an aria by Johann Christian Bach - Park played the melody wonderfully, with warmth and poetry. Chee-Yun backed her up expressively and happily, her eyes shining.

It's fascinating to watch Chee-Yun play. She uses the entire bow, from one end all the way to the other. She stops dangerous millimeters from the end, and when she goes back, sometimes you can hardly hear her change direction. She can change color, too, in an instant.

The second half of the concert was all Brahms. The Sonatensatz in C Minor came first. This is a famous romp, with a wealth of different textures, allowing both pianist and violinist to dig in, take no prisoners. Chee-Yun dug in and her bow began coming apart.

Throughout the evening, she and Park were in perfect synch. They began Brahms' Sonata No. 3, Op. 108, at the same millisecond, without even glancing at each other. It was spooky to see.

Here was where you got to see Chee-Yun's virtuosity - the rapid color changes, the gypsyish double-stop passages, the light-timbred scherzo. The Strad, I should point out, sounded lovely, its tone not robust but burnished and honeyed.

The audience drank it up, and we got three encores.