The Korean-American violinist Fabiola Kim has earned herself an excellent reputation far beyond her native regions. While she has long been regarded as one of the strongest talents of her young generation in the United States with appearances at Carnegie Hall and the Aspen Festival – the New York Times celebrates her as “a brilliant soloist…with extraordinary precision and luminosity” – she has also been able to amaze critics and audiences on numerous European concert stages.
With 1939 now her impressive debut appears, whose program not only demands tremendous musicality, but also historical awareness and sensitivity. Under the baton of Kevin John Edusei, she has recorded with the Munich Symphony Orchestra violin concertos by Walton, Hartmann and Bartók, all of which were written in the year that provides the title – works by composers with very different styles and musical spheres of their own. The concerts reveal in the music and their spiritual attitude both closeness and distance to the historical turning point of 1939 – before the great global conflagration.
Béla Bartók, who with his folkloristic music strived for nothing less than a “brotherhood of peoples”, had already suffered under the rapprochements of the Hungarian right-wing government to the Nazi regime and was also directly affected by the political development at the latest with the annexation of Austria, where his publishing house Universal Edition was located. Torn between emigration and remaining in his homeland, Bartók initially escaped into work. He wrote his 2nd Violin Concerto for his befriended violinist Zoltán Székely. It represents a wonderful compromise between Bartók’s modern imagination and the client’s desire for a ‘classical’ concert.
Karl Amadeus Hartmann, a native of Munich, was most directly affected by the political darkening in Germany: “The standstill in creative activity was accompanied by the fear of what was to come, the unimaginable, the rule of the demon had come to pass, seemingly established for the duration.” Hartmann remained in Germany and chose inner emigration. The events of 1939 represent the starting point of his Concerto funèbre, which he conceived as funeral music and accusation against the tyranny of the National Socialists: “This period indicates the fundamental character of my piece and the background to it. The dire outlook at that time for all that war spiritual was to be challenged by an expression of confidence in the two chorales at the beginning and at the end.”
The situation was quite different with the creation of Walton’s Violin Concerto, which was composed at that time in Italy and the USA far from the threat of war. After Walton had flirted with modern trends in the 1920s and had risen to become the ‘enfant terrible’ of the English avant-garde, he followed in later works a more subtle tone a more subtle tone of lyrical quality in the neo-Romantic style, as he does in the Violin Concerto. He had received the commission for the composition from none other than Jascha Heifetz, who premiered the work in Cleveland in December 1939 with great success – thus Walton was now also affected by the political events, unable to attend the premiere of his work after the outbreak of World War II.
October 6, 2019