To hear Jinjoo Cho Friday night at Dallas City Performance Hall was to know why the young Korean-born violinist has won top prizes in major competitions, including those of Indianapolis, Montreal and Buenos Aires. Presented by Chamber Music International, with pianist Hyun Soo Kim, she pretty much had it all: brilliant virtuosity, a visceral feeling for rhythm and, when called for, natural lyricism. The program will be repeated Saturday in Richardson.
Right from the start of Dvorák’s Four Romantic Pieces, it was clear that a special kind of musicianship was at work. Cho phrased the three songlike pieces as sensitively as a fine singer and gave an apt spring to the dancelike second piece.
Then, in dramatic contrast, came mid-20th-century American maximalism, via John Corigliano’s 1963 Violin Concerto. Here was everything but the proverbial kitchen sink: music throwing off elbows in every direction, bluesy lyricism and hell-bent-for-leather virtuosity. There were daring leaps into the stratosphere, double-stops, slides and gleaming harmonics. Cho and Kim dispatched everything with panache.
After intermission we time-traveled back to the richest flowering of late romanticism, in Richard Strauss’ early Violin Sonata. Soaring melodies and succulent harmonies were savored with the greatest warmth. Kim lingered lovingly, but not too much, over the first movement’s second theme. Passion, eloquence, brilliance, delicate detail: It was all there, from both players.
Then came the really dazzling violinistic pyrotechnics, in Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy, based on themes from Bizet’s opera. Cho dispatched dizzying runs and skittering double-stops with eye-popping assurance, elsewhere dispensing apt earthiness and romantic dreaminess. An eminently deserved standing ovation was rewarded with a Kreisler Schön Rosmarinfairly oozing charm. Wow.
Slight reservations: on Cho’s very powerful instrument, some fortissimos better gauged to an orchestral performance than a piano-accompanied recital; a duller sound than I remembered from the hall’s Yamaha piano; and an audibly thumping damper pedal.