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Polish melancholy and French elegance may enter into a wonderfully symbiotic relationship in music, a point well illustrated by the works of Frédéric Chopin, who, Polish by birth, settled in France. This was also the point that was uppermost in the minds of the Korean violinist Bomsori Kim and the Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz when they selected the works for their first album together and decided to combine pieces from both of these musical traditions. It was through television that these two artists got to know one another in 2016, when Blechacz was closely following the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition and Bomsori Kim was his clear favourite. She was awarded the second prize, replicating her achievement in the 2013 ARD International Music Competition in Munich. At the time the Polish pianist was looking for a chamber partner for his forthcoming project, and now he had found her. “I sent her an email, and fortunately she accepted my musical invitation,” Blechacz recalls. The Korean violinist admires Blechacz greatly and is particularly fond of his recording of works by Debussy and Szymanowski. At the time she could hardly believe that he had contacted her directly – after all, Blechacz has been one of the world’s leading pianists since his sensational victory in the 2005 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. What fascinates her about his playing is its textural clarity and range of tone colours, while Bomsori Kim brings with her a great understanding of the lyrical, rhapsodic element in music. Kim was particularly happy when Blechacz agreed to record Debussy’s Violin Sonata with her. Debussy’s threemovement sonata is the third and last of the “Six Sonatas for Various Instruments” that he began in 1915 but failed to complete on account of the cancer from which he was suffering. Although his intense patriotism turned him into something of a Germanophobe during the First World War, it is hard to deny the affinities between the opening movement of his Violin Sonata and that of Brahms’s First Violin Sonata, except that Debussy also introduces elements of Spanish and Hungarian music. The second movement is an Intermezzo that initially creates the impression of a capricious dance but which later acquires a note of wistful melancholy by way of contrast. The final movement, too, alternates between unbridled energy and sadness. Debussy himself described this movement as a “simple game on a theme that turns back on itself like a serpent biting its own tail”. The present recording of Gabriel Fauré’s First Violin Sonata represents a dream come true for Bomsori Kim: “This is one of my favourite sonatas,” she declares, “and it was always my dream to perform it with an outstanding pianist like Rafał since it is a really difficult work both technically and musically.” Fauré’s A major Sonata of 1875/6 is a central work in the history of music since this is the first time in French chamber music that we can hear a tone that already looks forward to the delicately Impressionistic, gossamerlike textures of Claude Debussy. Admittedly, the songlike gestures of the opening movement reflect the influence of such composers as Schumann and Berlioz, yet Fauré can still be found striking out in his own direction. The second movement begins with the gently swaying rhythms of a Venetian gondolier’s song, with the violin slipping into the role of the singing gondolier. The scherzo is marked by flickering pizzicatos in the violin – Fauré’s friend and colleague Florent Schmitt described it as having “the lightness of thistledown”, while the lively finale reminded him of a “gypsy improvisation with its almost barbaric power”. It was Rafał Blechacz who was particularly keen to play Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata. He has often performed this piece in the past, whereas Bomsori Kim was discovering it for the first time. “I’m very happy that Bomsori is now playing this sonata,” says Blechacz, “since it contains so many emotions and a whole range of characters.” Szymanowski wrote his only violin sonata in 1904, when he was twenty-two. A late Romantic piece, it is in three movements, all of whose themes are related to one another. It begins with a typical sonata Allegro marked by the contrast between the impassioned virtuosity of its first subject and the lyricism of its second subject. The middle movement is an Andantino in which elements of a scherzo are idiosyncratically combined with the characteristics of a slow movement, while the Finale – a thrillingly infectious tarantella – demonstrates its young composer’s mastery of contrapuntal procedures. Its subject initially appears in the form of a canon before later returning in inversion. As a bonne bouche to end their recital, Bomsori Kim has chosen a piece by Chopin. Since Chopin unfortunately left no works for violin and piano, the two musicians have had recourse to a transcription by the violinist Nathan Milstein, who arranged the C sharp minor Nocturne for violin and piano. “I really wanted to play Chopin on the violin,” explains Bomsori Kim, justifying her choice, “above all with Rafał, because for me he is Chopin incarnate.”

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