After a 15-year hiatus Korean violinist Kyung Wha Chung is to release her first album of complete solo Bach recitals this autumn, 45 years after her first recording was released with EMI.
A Gramophone Award winner for Béla Bartók / Kyung-Wha Chung, Sir Simon Rattle, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – Violin Concerto No 2, Rhapsodies No’s 1 & 2, the South Korean virtuoso was one of classical music’s most acclaimed performers. She also made history as the first Korean female violinist to make an international career.
In 2005 she stopped performing in public and recording due to an injury and instead focused all her efforts in raising her family and teaching a whole new generation of violinists at the prestigious Julliard School in New York.
Her first comeback concerto took place in 2010 with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra, a tour of Asia followed in 2013, and then in December 2014 she made a much-anticipated return to the UK culminating in a performance at a packed Royal Festival Hall, London.
It was there Kyung Wha Chung found herself at the centre of a media furore for admonishing a small coughing child, telling the parents ‘Maybe bring her back when she’s older’.
The resulting backlash unfairly undermined all the work she had done to encourage young people into the concert halls (though only if they ‘conduct’ themselves well).
Anna Picard, music critic for The Times wrote: ‘With one shrivelling put-down, a tetchy atmosphere turned toxic’.
Addressing the criticism in an article for the Guardian, Kyung Wha Chung wrote: ‘I was somewhat taken aback by the interruption of protracted adult coughing – and subsequent laughter – after the first movement of the opening work. After almost two minutes, as I was about to resume playing, my focus was stolen by a restless, coughing young child, directly in my line of vision. That this cough, and my surprised reaction, should go on to gather global headlines, is something of a revelation, and it has raised a number of interesting issues on conduct in a concert hall.’
This summer she will open Verbier Festival with Verbier Festival Orchestra and conductor Charles Dutoit (22 July). In the autumn she will present a series of recitals with her sonata partner Kevin Kenner, followed by a recital at London’s Barbican Centre (26 October), then on 18 May 2017 she makes a hotly anticipated return to Carnegie Hall, New York.
– all safely out of the dreaded winter cough and cold zone.