Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2
The Hallé, Sir Mark Elder
Wednesday 19 September 2012, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

“Sunwook Kim, who in 2006 was the youngest winner of the Leeds Piano Competition in a generation, was soloist for Brahms’ Piano Concerto no. 2. Both of Brahms’ concertos are grand, symphonic works in which one has the impression of the pianist being more a part of the orchestra than in many other concertos. The second is strikingly long, with its four movements, and seems to stand between inner disquiet and jovial light-heartedness. It was the former which was stressed tonight; the longer, inward-looking lines given soft, lyrical treatment, and the lighter, dancing figures somewhat restrained.

The first movement’s expressive solos for first and third horn were well tended to, supported by a warm, rounded string sound. The strings’ fluid legato was also very well fitted to the contrasting solo in places, and Kim’s interaction with the orchestra was obvious; he would often swivel on his stool and stare intently around the strings. The Scherzo felt heavy and dark at Elder’s stately tempo. Next to this strife the lighter flute passages made for pleasant contrast, as did the third movement’s touching cello solos. There was a brief but beautiful duet between cello and oboe, each drifting in and out of prominence around the other. The strings accompanied well, softly underpinning twinkling piano figures before a soft and still return to the cello. There was potential for the more nimble fourth movement to upstage the preceding storminess and serenity, but it was restrained to a lovely gracefulness and steady tempo. Sweeping legato in the woodwind and strings echoed the third movement, making this seem like a soft smile with acknowledgment of what had gone before rather than a cheerful end-piece to the concerto. Elder’s control and Kim’s palette of lyricism and power made for a very coherent performance.”