MUSIC REVIEWS : A Cool Recital From Kyung-Wha Chung

Since 1968, when as one of the more promising 20-year-old violinists on the national musical scene she first appeared in a Los Angeles-area recital, the Korean-born Kyung-Wha Chung has been pleasing Southland audiences with her high technical and musical accomplishment. The latest in her visits here came Monday night in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Chung is a mature artist now--though she certainly still looks youthful--and her recital with pianist Peter Frankl achieved an admirable standard in terms of solid mechanics and musical perspective. Yet, this agenda of works by Bartok, Beethoven, Debussy and Ravel emerged measurably uncommunicative. A deadly objectivity marked the entire event.


What the duo played most convincingly came first, in Bartok’s engagingly episodic and emotional Rhapsody No. 1. Here, both Chung and Frankl seemed to inhabit the pungent folk style, and rise to these many virtuosic challenges, breezily.


They connected less well to the sonatas that followed. Chung’s harsh, smallish tone gave little character, and precious little nuance, to the Olympian statements in Beethoven’s “Kreutzer,” to the more delicate swagger in Debussy’s G-minor opus and to the usually irresistible, jazzy subtleties of Ravel’s Sonata.

Frankl, for his part, proved again that one can play the piano while thinking of nothing else at all; his tangible lack of imagination, while conquering all technical hurdles conscientiously, is remarkable. He remains that rare duck in the pianistic world: a key-depresser. Depressing.