Some weeks ago now I was contacted by Victoria Mattinson from the agency here in London. She was very keen for me to listen to a new recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto by the extraordinarily talented young Korean violinist, Moonkyung Lee. I was overwhelmed by this very dedicated young musician’s artistry and of her very apparent love of the work.
With a huge amount of assistance of Victoria, Moonkyung offered to write something for my site and very kindly agreed to answer some follow-up questions about her experiences with this most lovely of concertos. Here is what Moonkyung had to say…
Many years ago, I visited Moscow for rehearsals with Kirill Rodin and Andrey Pisarev (both professors at the Moscow Conservatory) as we were to perform the Beethoven Triple Concerto. I was staying at a house just across from the conservatory where a very nice Russian lady hosted me. One day, she offered me a bowl of soup, which was very tasty, but it was the greasiest soup I’ve ever had! One can never imagine just how much butter was poured into that soup, and that’s when I realized, “This is Russian music!”
Back in school, when my friends and I heard some Russian music that overflowed with emotions, we used to say it sounded like “bad Tchaikovsky.” Sure there is an abundance of emotions and sentiments in his music too, but in my opinion, Tchaikovsky himself got away with the characteristics typically ascribed to the Russian music by becoming the spearhead and producing so many followers.
I don’t know about other pieces by Tchaikovsky but certainly for the violin concerto, it’s got some power to draw in the minds of every violinist in the world. When I won a concerto competition in New York in 2007 with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, many violinists around me directed their attention to the fact I get to perform the Tchaikovsky concerto with an orchestra rather than the fact that I won the competition. It is that kind of music for violinists.
i) Did you choose to play the violin or did you start with a ‘push’, perhaps from a parent?
My parents are not musical at all, and I was probably five or six when I was enchanted by the looks of the violin.
(ii) Do you remember when you first heard the Tchaikovsky concerto? Were you immediately attracted to it?
Unfortunately, I don’t remember the first time I heard the Tchaikovsky concerto, but I do remember the first time I was really impressed by this concerto. I think it was either 2006 or 2007 when I went to see Vadim Repin play Tchaikovsky with the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center. Every sound he produced convinced me that this was how the violin and the Tchaikovsky are supposed to sound!
(iii) Do you think the Tchaikovsky concerto bears comparison with the Brahms, written at much the same time?
Yes. I think the main differences between them is that the music of Tchaikovsky is more extroverted as opposed to the music of Brahms where it is more introverted. Many parts of theTchaikovsky concerto sound to me like a man who’s not afraid of expressing his emotions who would actually serenade a love song to his beloved whereas in Brahms concerto, it always reminds me of a man who would rather keep it to himself than showing his feelings who would eventually turn back after much consideration whether he should leave his love letter in a mailbox of his beloved or not.
(iv) Which is your favourite concerto and why?
Tchaikovsky! [Right answer ~ Ed!)
(v) How highly do the people of your country regard Tchaikovsky’s music as a whole?
Just like the other side of the globe, his music is always very popular. For example, you can very easily find performances of the Nutcracker around the end of year.
I am so grateful that Moonkyung found time to write this article and answer a few questions from me. The life of a concert violinist is hectic so I so appreciate her efforts on our behalf.
(Please don’t forget to look at my Stephen Hough interview (under Interviews, funnily enough!) about the complete piano concertos.
Here is the link to Moonkyung Lee’s interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. First, on Amazon…
…and on iTunes…
You can keep up to date with Moonkyung’s activities via her website: www.moonkyunglee.com
, and if you are interested in finding out more about WildKat’s other clients, you can do so here: www.wildkatpr.com