MUSIC REVIEW: European Union Chamber Orchestra, Soh-Yon Kim (Violinist) and the Lincolnshire County Youth Orchestra
There should be no place for a politician’s words in a concert review that tries to reflect the absolute brilliance of a performance.
But when Coun Gary Taylor of South Holland District Council described a concert by the European Union Chamber Orchestra (EUCO) and South Korean violinist Soh-Yon Kim as “quite a coup for the South Holland Centre”, no truer words have been spoken so far this year.
Just one performance by Soh-Yon, lead violinist on Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5 in A major, was enough to convince a privileged audience in Spalding that they were listening to what one critic called a “beautiful and consistently sweet sound”.
The concert opened with EUCO’s interpretation of Grieg’s Holberg Suite, played with all the pomp and ceremony fitting for a piece originally composed to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Norwegian historian Ludwig Holberg.
Another energetic piece, Haydn’s “The Schoolmaster” Symphony No.55 served as a worthy climax after EUCO and members of the Lincolnshire Youth Orchestra performed Two Wings and a Prayer by Norfolk-based composer Jane Wells.
A little bit of nerves is a good thing because when you’re nervous, you do things that are outside your capabilities sometimes and you tend to react to things much quickerViolinist Soh-Yon Kim
All in all, a near-perfect night of classical music.
Before the concert, EUCO founder and manager Ambrose Miller said: “We have played in 73 different countries, in some of the largest concert halls in the world, and it’s wonderful to have Queen Sofia of Spain as our patron.
“I thought there was a musical gap in the market to have a chamber orchestra that was genuinely European and we’re a sports car like a Lamborghini, not a Rolls Royce.
“What is fascinating is that western classical music is appreciated everywhere, from Vietnam to the bottom of South America and Africa, and that is fantastic.”
EUCO gave its first performance in 1981 as a musical ambassador for the European Union and amongst well-known musicians they have played with are flautist Sir James Galway, composer Julian Lloyd Webber and violinists Nicola Benedetti, Tamsin Little and late American great Sir Yehudi Menuhin.
The orchestra has also been invited to famous concert halls, including Birmingham Symphony Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Vienna Musikverein, as well as in front royalty such as Queen Noor of Jordan, King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium and King Sihanouk of Cambodia.
Ambrose said: “Every orchestra thinks it has had a fantastic concert because everyone is human.
“But I think one really great highlight was to play for King Sihanouk’s 77th birthday at the Royal Palace in Cambodia.
“He is an amateur composer so we played a couple of arrangements of his pieces which was a tremedous thing to do and he was a terribly nice man.”
Uniquely, EUCO offers opportunities for young musicians to audition for the orchestra and train alongside more experienced players to help them gain regular employment.
Another unique character to the orchestra is its size of between 12 and 22 players, as well as its practice of performing without a conductor which, in the case of the Spalding concert, was violinist Hans-Peter Hofmann who has been EUCO’s concert-master since 2007.
“Some works, like Two Wings and a Prayer by Jane Wells, don’t need a conductor,” Hans-Peter said.
“It’s all about music, with a lot of travelling and a lot of different plans thrown in.”
Ambrose added: “I was speaking to a teacher who said that the real problem is, with the academic pressure, that people are not allowed to have enough time to practice and to appreciate music.
“I think that is one of the most worrying things, that everything is done to pass an exam without being fully educated.”
Meanwhile, Suh-Yon Kim started playing the violin when she was four and then went on to study music in Canada before training at the renowned Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey whose past students include violinists Nigel Kennedy, Nicola Benedetti, Tasmin Little and pianist Melvyn Tan.
Suh-Yon, who was born in South Korea in 1989, has worked with dancers from the Royal Ballet School, Sadler’s Wells, London, the Alke Quarter and EUCO with whom she performed at a concert in north Norfolk last July.
“My mother is a violinist so I started with her and that’s how she judged that it would be best to start when I was young,” Suh-Yon said.
“It’s when you’re still quite intuitive with everything and can feel things naturally, so I think that was a good a decision.
“But I didn’t always take the violin seriously until I did decide quite early on to be a violinist and this was what I really wanted to do.
“I play the viola as well because they are similar in some ways, a similar technique, and I learned both of them because the Yehudi Menuhin School needed some violinists to play the viola as well.
“It acted as a great advantage to me because I could take on work for both violin and viola as well.”
Forthcoming concerts for Suh-Yon include performances at Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, today, then the University of Leicester on March 5 and St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London, on March 21.
“Sometimes when I allow myself to become too excited, I end up losing some of the concentration or some things that I have really learned to do in the past,” Soh-Yon said.
“It’s always a question of finding a balance and, on stage, I always experiment.
“In certain bits, I allow myself to be more indulgent and sometimes more excited, even if I know that I will sacrifice some of the technical bits.
“I’m still experimenting but I think, as a performer, it’s very hard to find yourself letting go 100 per cent.
“A little bit of nerves is a good thing because when you’re nervous, you do things that are outside your capabilities sometimes and you tend to react to things much quicker.
“For me, it sparks a kind of creative energy and I think it’s good, but thenfeeling nervous just before I go on stage brings an unpredictability I don’t enjoy most of the time.
“But I know that it’s necessary.”
Review and interviews by Winston Brown