A Dozen Questions for Rising Star Violinist Hye-Jin Kim
Up-and-coming violin virtuoso Hye-Jin Kim is a passionate devotee of the arts, with an infectious joie de vivre. Hopefully at some future date – the Sunday, November 4 concert with the Greenwich Village Orchestra has been postponed – she’ll have the opportunity to rejoin this exciting ensemble for a performance. Prior to the recent hurricane, Kim graciously took some time out of her whirlwind schedule to entertain a few serious and not-so-serious questions about the show and her blossoming career:
Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: You’re playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Greenwich Village Orchestra on November 4. Does this piece have special resonance for you, or is this just a chance to gig with a good orchestra?
Hye-Jin Kim: I have always loved Mendelssohn’s music- chamber music, vocal, orchestral, piano, and of course the violin concerto – for the delicate texture and yet highly emotional content. I have not played this piece for some time other than teaching it, so I’m very excited to be performing it with the GVO. This month has become my Mendelssohn phase as I just finished playing an all-Mendelssohn chamber music program for a residency. It’s as good as it gets.
LCC: I love his music too – it’s so indomitable, and inspiring – it always cheers me up. As far as your concert is concerned, I’m always interested in how musicians connect. Is this your debut performance with this particular orchestra? Did they find you or did you find them? Either way, I know you’re in for a good time..
HJK: I worked with the GVO once before, performing the Scottish Fantasy by Bruch with the delightful Pierre Vallet, who was guest conductor for that concert. So I guess I can say that they found me again! I enjoyed every minute playing with them and I really thought we had something special together in the concert. I’m looking forward to working with conductor Barbara Yahr this time, and discovering new things about this concerto.
LCC: How did you ge so lucky as to study with Jaime Laredo and Ida Kafavian when you were 14?
HJK:Going to the Curtis Institute of Music to work with Jaime Laredo and Ida Kavafian is one of the most fortunate things that happened in my life, another one being studying with Miriam Fried, post-Curtis. I do not know how it all happened and I don’t think I was quite aware how lucky I was at the time since I was only 14 years old. I remember playing my auditions in front of the faculty members and thinking to myself “hmm, I don’t know any of them!” The next thing I remember is getting a phone call from Mr. Graffman who was the director of Curtis at the time and he told me that I would be working with Jaime and Ida. And the rest is history.
LCC: You won the Concert Artists Guild International Competition three years ago. I see a million competitions out there, with a million winners, and I get jaded. And yet, some of these players are tremendously good. To what extent has your victory helped your career?
HJK: I have done my share of competitions in the past and did well in some. However, CAG is a bit different in that it awards a management contract to winners. It helped me connect with many musicians and presenters in the performing arts scene..
LCC: I can’t help but notice how busy your concert schedule is. How do you find the time, and the energy, and the focus, to shift between genres, and ensembles, and sometimes play the role of educator?
HJK: It definitely has been a challenge in recent years since I took a teaching position at East Carolina University not too long ago in addition to actively playing solo and chamber music. I find joy in all the things I do in this stage of my career and whether it is a concerto, recital, ensemble, or teaching, what I am doing at the moment is my favorite thing. This mindset helps me stay fresh and energized.
LCC: Every single quote I see about string players from the mainstream classical music press concerns an artist’s tone. Isn’t there a lot, lot more to it than tone – phrasing, dynamics, emotional attunement, the works? Besides, a lot of it depends on the instrument, anyway, right? Do you ever find yourself worrying about your tone?
HJK: Tone for a player is like a person’s personality or character. And with that individual, unique tone, you create phrasing, dynamics, and bring out emotions in music. So I feel that all this is very closely related. It does somewhat depend on the kind of instrument you play, but the tone you create should be from you, not the instrument.
What I search for in my playing is how to shape and use my tone to best express the music I play. To me, that challenge is especially fun.
LCC: Like most string players, you do a lot of chamber music gigs. Is there one particular repertoire, or musical era, that you find yourself gravitating toward especially? I see you like Bach which is always a good sign…
HJK: Bach is my musical home. From there I begin all my other musical journeys to different composers and repertoire. So it’s always nice to come home to Bach as often as I can.
I enjoy playing Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. I know it’s not too original, but I like digging very deep into feelings and emotions like Beethoven and Schubert did.
These days, I spend much time studying and listening to two great English composers with genuine, unique qualities, Elgar and Britten.
LCC: What violin do you play, how old is it and what is its provenance? How did you acquire it?
HJK: I play the Gioffredo Cappa circa 1687. It was crafted in Saluzzo, Italy but 320 years later it ended up in Boston and met me.
LCC: Hmmmm…ok. Now they said you were temperamental in Helsinki. Is that true?
HJK: If they said so!
LCC: That’s a media quote. I stole it from your website.
HJK: It was very cold around the time I played in Helsinki. So I think it was a good thing.
LCC: I see you’re a Phillies fan. I offer my condolences for this year – although the way they came back, after trading away half the team, was impressive. Are you psyched for next year and maybe watching Chase Utley move to third?
HJK: Thank you for your condolences. The September rush was exciting although it was short-lived. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m “psyched” for next year. With the Phillies lately it’s half excitement and half worries about the core guys’ lingering injuries. I think if Halladay comes back strong we will have a shot at having a good season. I really hope that the three young starting pitchers will pitch in the World Series for the Phillies together before the older two, Halladay and Lee, get too old. And I think next year should be the year for them.
I don’t think they will move Utley to third after all and I’m hoping they won’t. I love watching Jimmy Rollins and Utley turning double plays! But who knows…They have many holes to fill in and I’m looking forward to what this off-season holds for them.
LCC: You’re also a devotee of 19th century English Literature. If you could meet one author from that era, who would it be?
HJK: Charlotte Bronte. I visited her home in Yorkshire a couple years ago. I was humbled seeing the stark and severe setting and life circumstances she faced. You get a strong sense of that rough-edged life from her characters, and yet there is incredible beauty and sensitivity in her work. I think that underneath the severe expression she wears in portraits, and from the subjects she addressed in her writing, Charlotte Bronte must have had a tender, if not vulnerable, heart.
LCC: What I’m getting at with all these crazy questions is that a lot of audiences tend to take musicians for granted . If you’re onstage, you’re expected to deliver perfection 100% of the time – audiences sometimes forget that the musicians are everyday people, too, with the same kind of interests, for example, in books and baseball and movies as everybody else. Are those lofty expectations ever exasperating for you?
HJK: I wouldn’t say so. I believe there should be more effort from the performer’s end to communicate their thoughts about music-making and about life beyond the performing world. I try to put together concerts and recitals that reflect my literary interests and to combine those two worlds that I love. I am yet to figure out how baseball would go with music. Maybe that will just have to remain my secret passion!
LCC: Here’s an idea, I’m sure somebody did this before, but I’ll bet there hasn’t been a violinist playing the national anthem before a game in awhile. Think of all the fans who would hear you, it would be good exposure – and that song is a lot easier to play than it is to sing!
Hye-Jin Kim’s performance of the Mendelssohn with the Greenwich Village Orchestra at 3 PM on Sunday, November 4 at the Old Stuyvesant Campus, 345 E 15th St (between 1st/2nd Aves) has been postponed: watch this space for a rescheduled date.
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