Toward the end of yesterday's program at the Phillips Collection, my attention became riveted on the little finger of violinist Hyun-Woo Kim's left hand. While other fingers of that hand were dutifully pressing down strings so that the bow could play notes other than the E, A, D and G of the open strings, that little finger was plucking its own accompaniment to the pretty tune that was the main business of the moment--almost as though a mad, one-fingered guitarist had wandered into the music. It must have made pianist Hugh Wolff feel slightly superfluous, though he had been a most valuable part of the program up until then.
This is the sort of music virtuoso violinists love to perform, not so much for what it adds to the music, but for the pure gee-whiz of it. Kim's chosen show-stopper was the Caprice Basque, Op. 24, of Pablo de Sarasate, full of staccato double-stops, glittering harmonics and lots of left-hand pizzicato. Clearly, Kim is not merely a valued member of the National Symphony Orchestra but also a knock-'em-dead soloist.
In violin sonatas by Prokofiev, Debussy and Mozart, he also displayed fine musicianship. His problems of intonation were small, momentary and barely worth mentioning and he is obviously proficient in the contrasting styles of three centuries. His Mozart was light, lyric and beautifully proportioned, his Debussy splendidly varied in accents and intense at climactic points. Prokofiev's Sonata in D, Op. 94, was the musical peak of the program, brilliant almost to the level of Sarasate and soulful right up to the brink of schmaltz. The program also included the Berceuse Op. 16 of Faure'--a piece dreamy to the point of being soporific, as perhaps a lullaby should be.
Wolff, who has just been named associate conductor of the National Symphony, is also a pianist of notable ability and a virtually ideal partner in chamber music, versatile in style, splendidly balanced and finely coordinated. I was particularly impressed by his work in Mozart's B-flat Sonata, K. 454, which is as much a sonata for piano as for violin.