Interview with Soovin Kim

By Miles Cohen on February 2, 2011

In a few weeks, the Johannes Quartet will join us at the American Philosophical Society with a program of Mozart, Kurtág and Webern.  Months ago, during the annual Marlboro festival in Vermont, I had the opportunity to interview violinist Soovin Kim about the musical relationships between the quartet members as they perform, their relationship with PCMS, and their upcoming program.

Soovin Kim

Soovin Kim

If you have the chance, it is well worth listening to the entire interview. But as a preview to the concert, I pulled out a few of Soovin’s thoughts here that give insight into the composers that will be featured on the program and the reasons for pairing them.

On Mozart:  "Mozart’s music is so subtle, every tiny little change — whether tempo, dynamic energy, how you voice a certain chord — affect so much the perception from the outside, how the audience is receiving it.  They don’t need to be aware of these details, but it does change the overall experience.  Kurtág and Webern are both certainly like that.  It’s their love of detail.  They had such a particular strong vision of their music."

On Kurtág and Webern:  "Two of the most succinct great composers in Western music history.  They were able to say what they wanted in a very brief time period."

"Webern creates a certain atmosphere in each of these movements.  A lot of it has to do with color, creating harmony, and an accumulation of sounds weaving in and out of each other."

"Kurtág is a little more objective.  Creating these sounds that are fascinating and beautiful — picking something out of the air, out of nature, out of sky — it seems like some of the sounds he creates are sounds that have existed forever, not ones he has created."

"That is why we love to pair these together.  This program is really a hyper-attentive program.  Everyone gets pulled into all these little details.  Hypothetically, when we play the first Mozart, a lot of beautiful things are being highlighted and noticed and experienced by the listeners.  But as we go through the Webern and Kurtág, we’re getting shorter and people’s attentions are being drawn into even sharper focus.  When we play the second Mozart Quartet, they are going to notice even more [detail]."

To listen to the complete interview, just click on the audio player below.