Music begins where the possibilities of language end. – Sibelius
Where music begins, so does the possibility for the most intricate web of feelings. When music begins and we listen, we are woven into that fabric of emotions, and the music becomes our own story. Here, as I fill the space between notes written and notes heard, I share my stories about these selections.
Can one even imagine that a work so full of energy, vibrant colors, imagination, and even a touch of humor, be Debussy’s last opus? Truly, his Violin Sonata is a fitting portrayal of a colorful life of an artist whose works define French Impressionism in music. Peculiar gestures and contrasts juxtaposed with light-filled texture, colors, and the gorgeous sound world that Debussy creates, make this piece a true tour de force of the violin literature and a personal favorite of mine.
Five Pieces by Sibelius are hidden gems of the violin repertoire. Each of the miniature dance movements in this set is a charm to one’s ear, equal to Kreisler’s stylistic pieces for violin. The delicate and delicious melodies are unforgettable, and the silences in halted moments (especially in Rondino and Valse) are exquisite. Behind the stoic face of the man who wrote the declamatory Finlandia and the magnificent Violin Concerto and Symphonies, there is an incredible warmth and child-like innocence found in these pieces that can melt even the heaviest snow on the land he so loved.
Isn't it wondrous that a work Smetana wrote more than a hundred years ago could move me today to yearn for my Motherland halfway around the world? The word ‘homeland’ may never have been more significant than in Smetana’s world. Z Domoviny (From My Homeland) for violin and piano has the scope and emotional content similar to his symphonic poems Ma Vlast (My Country). It is as rich and raw as the soil of his country. It has the power to directly connect us to the land that birthed us and reminds us that however far or near, home is deep within us. It is musical homage to a place so beautiful, lush, and full of spirit.
Janáček’s Violin Sonata calls for a comparison to Debussy’s, and it’s fitting that these works bookend this CD. Written only three years apart by two of the most original and unconventional fin de siècle composers, both pieces are concise in length and content, and yet fully communicate the unique musical language of each composer. It is that musical voice of two distinctive artists that evoke, to me, vivid images of opposite worlds. If Debussy’s sonata is a light-shed crystal that sparkles and illuminates the hidden colors of the prism, Violin Sonata by Janáček is a painfully honest picture in abstract whose bold colors and strokes create a strikingly opaque scene. In it, a soul struggles to contain itself, maniacally bursts out, and finally, is subdued to silence.
I have had a strong and always evolving impression of the piece since my first hearing. Initially, the intense change of moods and the sheer energy it demands from the listener, let alone the performer, was shocking. I then became aware of the incredible beauty this piece holds. It is seldom ‘beautiful’ in the traditional way—that it’s pleasing to the ear. The unusual beauty that I find in this work is the very process of ideas clashing, fusing, and ultimately forming into something unbelievably poignant. This is heard in the hauntingly beautiful endings in each movement, where the music loses pulse slowly and quietly as we hold our breath in that inescapable silence. And just like that, the life of music evaporates into thin air. Music no longer speaks through notes: it is felt.
This is why I play and sing the music I love; I play for the moments in which words and notes vanish and only music remains. And perhaps, it is about such moments that Sibelius wrote:
Music begins where the possibilities of language end. That is why I write music.
- Hye-Jin Kim
Violinist Hye-Jin Kim has been lauded by The Strad as a deeply engaging performer, praised for her “…heart-stopping, unrivalled beauty…well-thought out, yet of the moment.” Hye-Jin crafts extraordinary programs often drawing from her interests in Art and Literature which, paired with her rare sensitivity and intellect, set her apart in today’s music scene. This special artistry brought her to international prominence quite early in her career when she was awarded First Prize at the Yehudi Menuhin Competition at the age of nineteen and was a winner of the 2009 Concert Artists Guild International Competition.
Hye-Jin has performed as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra led by Gerard Schwarz as well as with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Pan Asia Symphony (Hong Kong), and the Hannover Chamber Orchestra, where she led the ensemble in Mozart’s A Major Concerto at age 12. She has appeared in major venues across North America, Europe, and Asia, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Kimmel Center Verizon Hall, Salzburg’s Mirabel Schloss and St. John’s, Smith Square, and Wigmore Hall in London. At the invitation of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she was honored to perform at the U.N. Headquarters in both Geneva and New York. Hye-Jin has also served as a cultural representative for Korea in Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan through concert and outreach engagements.
In addition to her prizes in the CAG and Menuhin Competitions, Hye-Jin is also a winner of the Philadelphia Orchestra Concerto Competition, the Virtuosos of the 21st Century in Moscow, Aspen Concerto Competition, and the Kay H. Logan Chamber Music Award. A rising force in the chamber music world, Hye-Jin’s festival appearances include Marlboro, Ravinia, Music from Angel Fire, Music at Menlo, Bridgehampton, Lake Champlain, Martha’s Vineyard, and Prussia Cove in Cornwall, UK.
A native of Korea, Hye-Jin began her violin studies in Seoul with Dong-Hyun Kim at the age of 8 and entered The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia when she was 14, studying with Jaime Laredo and Ida Kavafian. She earned her Masters degree with Miriam Fried at New England Conservatory as a recipient of NEC’s prestigious Emma V. Lambrose Presidential Scholarship. She is an Assistant Professor of Violin at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.
Beyond her musical activities, Hye-Jin is an avid reader of classic literature, with particular interest in the writings of 19th century British authors. During her travels, she has toured the homes and haunts of the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and C.S. Lewis. She shares her thoughts on music, travels, her favorite sport baseball and more on her blog A String of Notes, which can be found at www.astringofnotes.wordpress.com.
Known for her deep musical and emotional commitment to a wide range of repertoire, Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute has been praised for her ‘razor sharp intelligence and wit’ by the Washington Post and as ‘elegant and engaging’ by the Wall Street Journal. In 2006, she was honored as a recipient of a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship.
Ieva’s Alban Berg Tribute recording was released on Labor Records in 2010, featuring Berg’s piano sonata and previously unknown or unrecorded works written in tribute to Berg by Giacinto Scelsi, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Ross Lee Finney, Jacob Gilboa, and Hans Erich Apostel. The New York Times lauded it and described Ieva as “an artist of commanding technique, refined temperament and persuasive insight” and as “an authoritative and compelling guide throughout this fascinating disc.”
Recital appearances include major American and European cities—most recently in France, with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, on the Dame Myra Hess series in Chicago, at Caspary Hall in New York City, in Vilnius, Lithuania, and at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery in Washington, DC where she performed a program in conjunction with an exhibit on the 19th century American painter James McNeil Whistler. The Washington Post called her a ‘splendid colorist’ and described her performance as ‘magical tone-painting’.
Ieva has performed with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival under the baton of James Conlon and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil performing Mozart’s K. 488 under the baton of Ligia Amadio. She has also performed concerti with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, The Gratz University Orchestra, and the Lithuanian National Symphony.
Ieva’s chamber music endeavors have brought her to major stages around the world such as Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium, London’s Wigmore Hall, Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, and on national tours with Musicians from Marlboro. In 2009, Ieva’s piano trio—Trio Cavatina with Harumi Rhodes and Priscilla Lee—won the Naumburg International Chamber Music Competition and made its Carnegie Hall debut and San Francisco debut at Herbst Theater the following year.
Ieva has appeared as a guest artist in chamber music performances on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, with New York Philharmonic musicians at Merkin Hall, and with Boston Symphony musicians at Tanglewood. Festivals appearances include Marlboro, Ravinia, Bard, Caramoor, Chesapeake Chamber Music, Prussia Cove in Cornwall, England, and Festival de la musique de chambre at La Lointaine in France.
Ieva served on the faculty of the Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival for five years as a Collaborative Pianist. She holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and Mannes College of Music, and her principal teachers have been Seymour Lipkin and Richard Goode.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mark and Anne Flegel, Jung-Keun and Mikyung Kim, Mary Lorey, Kwan and Sarah Seo, Amy Frawley, and Jessica Hadler of CAG, without whom this project wouldn’t have been possible. The unparalleled artistic guidance of my former teachers Miriam Fried, Ida Kavafian, and Jaime Laredo has shaped my music making and thoughts behind this CD and I am forever grateful. The dedication and friendship of Ieva Jokubaviciute and Leszek Wojcik have inspired me throughout the project—this album is the fruit of our common bond in music.
Engineer and producer: Leszek Wojcik and Noriko Okabe
Recorded in June, 2012 at LeFrak Hall at Queens College, NY
Cover photos and Design: Balazs Borocz of Pilvax Studio