Discover more from Wild Mercury Rhythm
Danbi Um with Amy Yang - Much Ado: Romantic Violin Masterpieces
(Avie Records, 2023)
Were it not for the inclusion of Brahms and Wagner, this recording could have been entitled “Late Romantic Violin Masterpieces.” That a youthfully precocious violinist performs this mature repertoire only adds to the bait-and-switch nature of Much Ado: Romantic Violin Masterpieces. Korean-American violin phenomenon, Danbi Um has won multiple awards, including top prizes at the Yehudi Menuhin and Naumberg International Violin Competitions, and Astral Artists’ Auditions. So, we understand she has the chops, but so does Joe Bonamassa, but that does not make him a bluesman.
This is where I believe Um’s accompanying pianist comes in. Amy Yang provides Um with a receptive environment to make her debut recording. A virtuoso herself, Dr. Yang tempers the project
Much Ado, the solo debut album by Korean American violinist Danbi Um is as striking for the young musician’s choice of “old world” repertoire as her virtuoso interpretations and the sumptuous sound she draws from her 1683 “ex-Petschek” Nicolo Amati violin. Danbi conjures memories of a musical Golden Age, a sensibility instilled in her by a roster of internationally renowned tutors.
What Um avoids and what makes this release special is the inclusion of the usual suspects in violin firestarters: Paganini, Ysaÿe, Hindemith, Bartók, Szymanowski, Sarasate, and Bazzini: all are absent. Instead, Um plumbs closer waters. The title track from Eric Korngold’s Shakespeare-inspired suite sits in juxtaposition with works by Austro-Germanic composers Fritz Kreisler and Richard Wagner. Hungarian Romani music informs the included compositions by Johannes Brahms, Jeno Hubay, and Erno Dohnányi, with the collection tempered with music by Jewish composers Ernst Bloch, Joseph Achron, and Leo Zeitlin.
This disc is a joy for the welcome surprise it brings, not only in its selection of pieces but Um’s crack performance. The violinist’s playing is youthful, brimming with vitality, and a robust presentation. Um has arrived.