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Classical Music Review

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Earl Kim & Isang Yun
Complete Works for Solo Violin


Composers: Earl Kim & Isang Yun
Performed by: Chi Young Song
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 12 November 2021

On Earl Kim & Isang Yun: Complete Works for Solo Violin, violinist Chi Young Song performs works by the titular composers, each of whom are of Korean heritage. Blurring the lines between Western musical heritage and traditional Korean music, each piece exhibits the crosscultural and borderless qualities of music. On '12 Caprices for Solo Violin', Chi Young tackles technical, intimate passages rooted in Western standards. The three works by Yun - written after his exile to Germany - make apt use of ornamental gestures, Korean folk music, and Taoist principles to harken back to the composer’s heritage...

While I'm not a fan of avant-garde classical music that attempts to subvert traditional genre styles, Earl Kim & Isang Yun: Complete Works for Solo Violin has just about enough interesting pieces to make the slog through the avant-garde segments almost bearable... but not quite enough to make it an album worth revisiting.

If I'm going to listen to music for pleasure, it should touch my heart and soul on at least one level, not be a showcase of how the composer is delivering new (almost unlistenable) sounds by using their instrument in an unconventional way. Violinist Chi Young Song does a wonderful job with the material he is provided. The problem, for me, was that the original material wasn't overly interesting.

Yeah, I get it the melding of Korean and Western styles, on paper, sounds a novel and interesting project. However, I doubt very much the bland offerings here showcase the best of either.

What we end up with are 4 works (20 tracks - 1 hr, 16 min, 21 sec) of soulless, uninspiring music. Avant-garde music lovers will probably lap this up. I was just left a little cold.


Darren Rea

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