Artist Interview: Violinist Hye-Jin Kim

By Patrick Burke on December 23, 2015

Winner of the 2009 Concert Artist Guild Competition, violinist Hye-Jin Kim returns to the PCMS stage for the second time this season. She will be joined in recital with pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute at the American Philosophical Society on January 13. Before the New Year, I spoke with Hye-Jin about her upcoming recital, her most recent CD, and her passion of literature.

Patrick Burke: Your January 13th recital features staples of the violin repertoire. Could you tell us why you chose these works, and is it just happenstance that they are all in a minor key?

Hye-Jin Kim: My program for January 13th is essentially a collection of the pieces I love, for different reasons for each piece. Even though these works are all written in or indicated as a minor key, there are many incredible “major” moments in these pieces. For me, these transforming moments are able to shine more and hold a special meaning because these works are built largely on a minor key.

By the way, I have heard the final chord of the Bach Chaconne as a D Major chord in Busoni’s transcription of this piece for piano once, and I almost jumped out of my seat! So, who knows? It’s really up to one’s imagination to hear if this piece ends in D Major or d minor- it’s just one note D on the violin score for the final note, so it is possible to hear two different endings!

PB: Continuing with this idea, the three composers wrote in vastly contrasting eras. What is it like to performing these works together, and is there a reason you chose to pair each half the way you did?

HK: Bach, Saint-Saens, and Prokofiev are indeed from vastly contrasting eras. However, their music is not a contrast to or an opposite of the other. In fact, their writings are similarly formal and structured, while their musical language is all very unique due to different backgrounds, environments, and nationalities. They create stories in completely different ways. It’s very interesting to play these pieces in one program and have the chance to compare and relate one piece to another and one composer to another, and explore this diverse program as a whole. For each half, I wanted Bach to be my starting point. Pairing each Bach with Prokofiev and Saint-Saens sonatas injects another energy to the program and flows nicely in terms of key relationship.

PB: You’re starting the second half of your program with Bach’s Chaconne from BWV 1004, a work that has as many interpretations as it does notes. Could you share your stylistic approach to Bach, and where you draw your inspiration?

HK: I don’t think I can say I follow a specific style of playing Bach. More over, I would not want to limit myself to one. I try to focus on what this music calls for and play and express what’s inside and behind the notes. I feel that that gives me more freedom to portray different feelings, sometimes pure and simple and sometimes, in contrary, passionate and emotional. There is so much expression and complexity in the Chaconne and that’s why it’s so great. One doesn’t have to be bound to one way of playing it.

PB: You recorded an album with pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute back in 2014. What is it like working with the same pianist on a recording in contrast to a recital, and where did your artistic collaborations have their beginning?

HK: The first time Ieva and I played together was at Ravinia’s Steans Institute back in 2005. We have been recital partners regularly since 2010. Recording our album of works by Debussy, Janacek, Sibelius, and Smetana was a natural course to take for us as we have played these pieces many times together and really enjoyed them. It was also a fun process as both Ieva and I like the freedom of being spontaneous as player and we tried to carry that same feeling into recording these works.

PB: Lastly, you’re an avid reader, so to steal a line from Pamela Paul – what books are currently on your night stand?

HK: Currently, I have two books that travel with me. One is Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, a Victorian era English writer who happened to write the most beautiful biography on Charlotte Bronte, and the other one is Wait Till Next Year, a touching memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin of growing up in Brooklyn loving her family, baseball, and the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950’s. My reading list seems to also go with the theme of diversity!

Violinist Hye-Jin Kim performs with Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at the American Philosophical Society. For tickets and information, visit the concert page.

For more information on Hye-Jin, visit her website.