Het kostte de topvioliste Kyung Wha Chung vele jaren en bijna haar carrière. Een schokkend maar leerzaam verhaal met hopelijk een goede afloop.

 Overcoming Injury, a Violinist Returns.

Kyung Wha Chung Makes Comeback at Southbank Center, London

Bron: The New York Times >  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/arts/music/kyung-wha-chung-makes-comeback-at-southbank-center-london.html




LONDON — Billed as “The Legend Returns,” with life-size posters on the London Underground, Kyung Wha Chung’s concert at the Southbank Center on Tuesday has been advertised as if it were a movie about a prizefighter’s comeback. “It wasn’t my idea,” she said, agreeing to put the whole thing down to record company hype.

But as a violinist who helped define the classical music scene through the 1970s and 1980s and became a role model for subsequent generations of players — not least, female Asian ones — Ms. Chung could fairly be described as legendary. And she is certainly returning, concluding an extended disappearance.

After a major international career and numerous records — 20 of them are being released by Decca in a celebratory “returning legend” set already available in Britain and Japan and scheduled for international release in January — she effectively vanished from the Western concert circuit. This Southbank recital is her first London appearance in 12 years. For most of that period, she had not performed on the Continent or in the United States. And no new commercial recordings have emerged, either.

The reason has been injury: a problem with her left index finger that, as she explained, started innocently, in 2005, “with irritation when I turned the violin pegs.”

“So I saw a doctor, who gave me a cortisone injection,” she said. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Chung was supposed to play the Brahms Concerto with the conductor Valery Gergiev. “During the rehearsal, there was pain, the finger collapsed because the joint wasn’t strong enough, and I had to go onstage in front of 3,000 people and say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t play,’ ” she said.

And although, three days later, she did manage to play — Bruch, not Brahms — serious damage had been done, probably, she said, because of the injection more than anything else. “The cortisone was a mistake,” she said.

More treatments followed, without success. Then, still in her 50s, she called herself retired, “because I am decisive — I was brought up that way,” she said. “You don’t cry over whatever it is you spill, you carry on. I thought, ‘O.K., no more touring.’ Then I bought myself two dogs and found other things to do.”

Initially, Ms. Chung joined the teaching staff at the Juilliard School in New York, where she continues to coach selected students. Then she settled, with a vengeance, into charitable activities: raising money for young musicians in her native South Korea, supporting orphans in Rwanda and doing good works for her Baptist church.

She says her faith explains why she calls her injury “a blessing” and insists that “like every step of my life, it was under the direction of God: Losing my career opened new doors.” As she put it: “I got off the train that traps you in the music world. The pressure. So much pressure.”

It had been like that since she was 6. Born in 1948 to parents who insisted that their children succeed, she was playing concerts to vast audiences in Seoul when she was still in ankle socks. Along with her six siblings — who include the celebrated conductor Myung Whun Chung and the cellist Myung Wha Chung — she was corralled by a formidable mother into an instrumental version of the Trapp Family Singers. Arriving at Juilliard at 13, she soon found herself in head-to-head competition with fellow students like Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman.

 “It was crushing,” Ms. Chung said. “They seemed to have the natural genius. Me, I had to work. But I knew how to work. My mother taught me.”

 She shared first place with Mr. Zukerman in the 1967 Leventritt Competition at Carnegie Hall. But that achievement somehow failed to put her on the international map. It wasn’t until 1970, when she made her British debut with the London Symphony Orchestra — replacing an indisposed Mr. Perlman — that things changed for her. The reviews were glowing. Offers poured in. And André Previn was so won over that he went on to conduct her first major recording — of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Concertos — followed by a series of LPs, now celebrated, with the London Symphony that are the backbone of Ms. Chung’s discography.

Still in her early 20s, Ms. Chung had an appeal that was not entirely unrelated to being a young Asian woman, with a look far different from the standard paradigm of white male violinists. But she stood out, too, for playing that was fire and ice: a thrilling mix of passionate exuberance and armor-plated technique. And the armor-plating covered more than just her fingers.

“I know I was an object of desire,” she said, “a fascinating little creature. But I had a basic reaction to anyone in love with me. I put it to one side. Nothing could disturb my central purpose: to make music. And in my 20s, I assumed this formidable face, with no sign of weakness. Managers said I had steel inside.”

In other words, there was a lot of self-protection, in her performances as in her life: a ruling out of vulnerability that was exciting but perhaps inhibiting. Having very gradually begun to play again in 2010, with well-spaced concerts here and there — only in Asia, never in the West — she’s made a calculated choice to restart her career back on the London stage, where it began.

The finger issue is, she says, “ongoing” but “much better,” with the help of an operation on her hand that she had only a few months ago. Now 66 but hardly looking it, Ms. Chung feels in good shape and good spirits. If the Southbank concert — a chamber recital with just herself and the pianist Kevin Kenner — goes well, there are plans for concerts next year.

Whether the Southbank audience will find her playing different now is an inevitable question. “Every concert is different,” she said, sidestepping it. “One thing that’s definitely changed is me. My values are different now. I have a better idea of what is and isn’t important. I avoid the pressures and go at my own pace. But what hasn’t changed is that the audience will get my 100 percent commitment, as always.”


“All my life I’ve delivered,” she said. “And I’ll deliver again.”