"he flirted with the line, shaped it, wrapped it around his fingers, pulled it out in a new dimension, all with practiced ease."
- ANNE MIDGETTE, WASHINGTON POST
"the next Yo-Yo Ma" - JOSEPH MCLELLAN, WASHINGTON POST
"excellent performance, the best I've heard of this piece" - DAVID BRATMAN, SAN FRANCISCO CLASSICAL VOICE
Grammy winning artist Jonah Kim made his solo debut with Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2003. The same year, he also appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra where the Washington Post music critic Joseph McLellan called him simply, "the next Yo-Yo Ma." Mr. Kim has soloed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Atlantic Classical Orchestra, New Philharmonia, Orquestra Sinfônica Nacional, Orchestra Filarmonica, Symphony of the Americas and many others. He has played in prestigious venues such as New York City's Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall, Wigmore Hall in London, California's Montalvo Arts Center, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Kravis Center in Palm Beach, the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, the Phillips Collection and the John F. Kennedy Center in D.C. where Anne Midgette of the Washington Post praised, "he flirted with the line, shaped it, wrapped it around his fingers, pulled it out in a new dimension, all with practiced ease."
Highly sought after internationally also as a chamber musician, Mr. Kim is a founding member of the "hip, unstuffy, and malleable group" Ensemble San Francisco. He frequents festivals like the Atlantic Music Festival, Bari International Music Festival, Cactus Pear Music Festival, Chamber Music Silicon Valley, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Music in May Santa Cruz, and San Luis Obispo's Festival Mozaic. As a fellow at the Curtis Institute, he formed a piano trio with Joel Link, currently first violinist of the award-winning Dover Quartet, and international piano sensation Yuja Wang. Coached by some of the leading musicians of their day, they explored the piano trio literature extensively. Since then, Mr. Kim has collaborated with world class artists on four continents, sharing the stage with Cho-Liang Lin, Elmar Oliveira, Jon Nakamatsu, Martin Beaver, Chee-Yun Kim and Romie de Guise-Langlois in recent seasons. In a review of his performance at Alliance Français, San Francisco Classical Voice critic David Bratman exclaimed, "this was an excellent performance, the best I've heard of this piece."
Born in Seoul, Korea, Mr. Kim immigrated to the United States in 1995. His father possessed a keen ear for music despite no formal musical training and introduced him to the cello through VHS tapes of Pablo Casals playing the Bach's Solo Cello Suites. Learning by imitation, the seven-year old was awarded a full scholarship to the Juilliard School within the year. So began his professional training at Juilliard, but it was not until he met world renowned soloist and pedagogue Janos Starker the following summer that he became certain music was his calling. Attending a New York City public school, learning to speak English, and adjusting to life in the United States was not always easy. Starker's invitation to come study with him was pivotal, inspiring the young cellist to continue with renewed motivation. Starker later remarked, "Jonah is an exceptional talent. He is at the top of his generation."
Mr. Kim was awarded full scholarships and graduated with top marks at only seventeen years of age from two of the most prestigious conservatories, The Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, regarded as two of the most exclusive educational institutions in the world. His biggest musical influences include Janos Starker, Mstislav Rostropovich and Yo-Yo Ma. He has also studied with cellists Peter Wiley, Orlando Cole, David Soyer, Joel Krosnick, Aldo Parisot, Lynn Harrell, violinists Jaime Laredo, Aaron Rosand, Joseph Silverstein, Arnold Steinhardt, and pianists Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Seymour Lipkin, Claude Frank and Edward Aldwell.
Mr. Kim is the recipient of two Grammy Awards and records across a spectrum of genres. He is also active in the community, dedicated to sharing music and reaching out in ways that positively impact and heal people in need, bringing music to veterans, ailing patients and children of low income families. As a teacher, his students have been awarded scholarships to universities and conservatories in the U.S. and Europe. His masterclasses have been described as "captivating and hilarious… relevant to not only musicians, resonating with all walks of life." Between performances, he shares his knowledge with young talent from over 30 countries at Interlochen Center for the Arts Summer Camp.
Mr. Kim plays a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume cello made in 1845 generously on loan, as well as a 2016 Haide Lin, an award winning instrument at the Indianapolis Violin Society of America Competition. His bows are made by Jules Fétique and Émile Auguste Ouchard.
"Think Lang Lang, think Yuja Wang. Jonah Kim, the 22-year-old cellist who gave a recital at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Sunday afternoon, is cut from the same cloth. [He] can do pretty much what he wants on a cello. He flirted with the line, shaped it, wrapped it around his fingers, pulled it out in a new dimension, all with practiced ease... He proceeded to offer an ambitious program across a fair spectrum of styles, played with a lot of finesse and a lot of intensity... - Anne Midgette, Washington Post
Master of nuance and dynamics. Their concert gave every evidence of it. I was reminded of the great violinist Mischa Elman, who was known for his stupendous tone... What is very interesting to me is that Kim did not play on his expensive museum-piece cello. He used a replica made only three years ago by the local prize-winning luthier Haide Lin." - Joseph Gold, Piedmont Post
Chee-Yun joined cellist Jonah Kim in the three-movement duo by Zoltan Kodaly from 1914, a work imbued with lively Hungarian rhythms. It was a pleasure to hear such an impeccable match of sound from two players. Every nuance was played the same way, with matching vibrato and precise intonation. For this listener it was a definitive performance. Another standing ovation.
- Roger Emanuels, Monterey Performing Arts
Kim has a thorough command of his instrument, with a large, accurate technique, a highly tense lyrical style, and a willingness to hammer the cello with forceful bowings if need be. By contrast, he played the long lines of the second movement with restraint and a kind of trembling subterranean emotion that was very effective; in the third-movement cadenza [of the Shostakovich cello concerto], Kim showed he could handle its wide range of drama, from near-static introspection to frenzied mania.
- Greg Stepanich, Palm Beach Daily News
Artistry aside, Kim's articulate technique elevated the work beyond poignant. Amazing double-stop work, exact octaves, clean, clear notes in high and low registers, articulate arpeggios - the audience was blessed to textbook-perfect technique. Ah, but Kim's phrasing took us beyond the moment; with light fingering that seemed to barely touch the strings, slight hesitations, breathless lifts, he instilled magic. And then he played Paganini. After 45 minutes with a tough concerto, he unassumingly settled into a cello performance of Caprice No. 24, and left the audience in a second spontaneous standing ovation... - Sherli Leonard, Press Enterprise
"Cellist Jonah Kim [gave] the most vivid and memorable performance of the evening. He is a dominant artist in any context, musically and physically... Kim had the deepest grasp on the work, that he had virtually memorized it even though its pages were in front of him on an iPad. At least his authority conveyed that impression. And, in the last movement, he did something I had never seen or heard before, bowing a glassy passage, without purchase on the strings... The standing ovation was punctuated with shouts of bravo." Scott MacClelland, Performing Arts Monterey Bay
No more perfect piece could be written to feature the all-embracing warm compassionate quality of the cello. As such, it was a vehicle welcomed by the audience to have an opportunity to revel in the artistry of one of the festival's favorites, Jonah Kim assisted by Ms. Katrine Gislinge. With his broad sweep of sustained melodic richness possible with such a grand cello piece, he gave the audience everything they were looking for and more...violinist Martin Beaver and cellist Jonah Kim were there in full form delighting in playing off each other at every opportunity throughout the performance. - Michael Tierra, Peninsula Performing Arts
The concert began vividly with cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Christine Payne in Debussy's Sonata No. 1 in D minor. This was an excellent performance, the best I've heard of this piece. It was a hard-edged rendition, communicating with pointed clarity. Kim expressed himself through graded levels of passion and in wide varieties of tone, from hard and metallic to gentle recitative... Ravel's Trio for piano and strings received altogether a more conventionally Impressionist performance. Kim played in a more even, controlled style with little open display... The Debussy [was] the highlight of the evening. - David Bratman, San Francisco Classical Voice
Sean Kennard has won top prizes in the Queen Elisabeth Competition (Belgium), the International Music Competition of Viña del Mar (Chile), the Vendome International Piano Competition (Portugal), the Sendai International Music Competition (Japan), the Hilton Head International Piano Competition (USA), the National Chopin Competition, the Iowa Piano Competition, the American Pianists Association, and the International Chopin Competition of the Pacific.
The Washington Post praised Kennard's "powerful and involved music making," describing him as "a strong luminous pianist." His 2011 debut album received a rave review in American Record Guide, which pronounced it "a hidden gem," attesting to its "perfect blend of lyricism and romantic passion," "huge romantic sound, and bold melodic vision." It proclaimed that he "plays the dickens out of the Stravinsky [Three Movements from Petrushka]" and "plays Chopin's Preludes with more poise and vision than most pianists who have recorded them." Fanfare affirmed the enthusiastic reception, naming the album "a very desirable disc" and citing "Kennard's mastery of Chopin's idiom," its "impression of complete effortlessness" and "emotional responsiveness." The review characterized his playing as "full of life and sparkle," summing up: "while I wouldn't necessarily say that Kennard outclasses Ashkenazy, Rubinstein, Moravec, Ohlsson…in this repertoire, he surely equals them."
Meet the Artists | Jonah Kim & Sean Kennard play Rachmaninoff & Barber
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Cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Sean Kennard have been making music together since they were teenagers at the Curtis Institute of Music and together they have played almost every sonata in the standard repertoire. The Rachmaninoff Sonata and the Sonata by Samuel Barber hold a special place for them: The Rachmaninoff was the first sonata they worked on together, and Kim's teacher at Curtis was Orlando Cole, who premiered the Sonata with Barber himself at the piano. Both Sonatas shine as big, romantic works with broad, rhapsodic strokes and soaring melodies. Kim and Kennard give stunning performances, singling out these brilliant young performers as two of the best in their generation.
For cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Sean Kennard, studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia was like being at Hogwarts. They were mesmerized by the spells they could cast every time they learned some new flashy technique. Two decades later, they've grown into musical wizards, and they just released their debut recording. It features the Sergei Rachmaninoff's Sonata for Piano and Cello and Samuel Barber's Sonata for Cello and Piano, two works they first performed while at Curtis.
JK: "We started hanging out. Rachmaninoff actually was the very first piece we played together. So, almost 20 years later, to record this together and especially to record this along with the Barber really makes this special for us."
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Although I'm primarily known as a world music and jazz aficionado, I have also loved classical music for a long time. I was a teenager when I first heard Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Van Cliburn's acclaim-winning performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1. I loved rhythm and blues and jazz, but this music spoke to me as well. If you haven't listened much to classical music, let me tell you it's not all starched shirts and formality. There is the richness of timbre and tone that comes with an orchestra of acoustic instruments. There is the intimacy of chamber music and duets. There is the passion and pathos of great opera.
Two albums have been playing on repeat in my house-French mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa singing Debussy's art songs and a recording of Rachmaninoff and Barber's Cello Sonatas performed by cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Sean Kennard. Kim and Kennard perform passionately in the video below, not stiff or starchy at all. They have been playing together since they were teenagers at the Curtis Institute of Music and have played almost every sonata in the classical repertoire. The Rachmaninoff sonata was the first work they ever performed together, many years ago. For my part, I first heard the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata decades ago, performed by the great Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and I've never forgotten how elegant and sweeping the music is. I also love how the cello's sound suggests the human voice in many ways. Photo: Grace Song Photography
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When cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Sean Kennard met at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, they were both still in their teens. Their youth wasn't about to hold them back. The first piece they undertook together was Rachmaninoff's technically and musically daunting Sonata for Piano and Cello, Op. 19. The fruits of the team's early labor are on full display in a new Delos recording that pairs that potent masterwork with Samuel Barber's Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 6, written when the composer, who was also a Curtis student, was in his early 20s.
Kim and Kennard give this cello sonata program fully committed, colorfully contrasted readings. While the Rachmaninoff is a more fully satisfying work, there's something about the sense of danger and fearlessness they bring to the Barber that captures their own youthful musical zest. Like the composer himself, they go for broke and hold nothing in reserve. Credit: Grace Song
READ THE FULL San Francisco Classical Voice REVIEW
A few months ago Delos released what seems to be the debut album of the duo of cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Sean Kennard. The two of them met as teenagers at the Curtis Institute of Music, and the first major work they prepared was Sergei Rachmaninoff's Opus 19 sonata. Appropriately enough, they chose that sonata as the opening selection on their new album. However, my own interest was more inclined to what followed, Samuel Barber's Opus 6 sonata.
I first came to know this sonata through the Canadian West Hill Radio Archives Barber anthology, Historical Recordings: 1935–1960 (which Amazon.com tells me I purchased on October 13, 2011). The collection includes a recording of a recital performance of the sonata at Curtis performed by cellist Orlando Cole, who premiered the sonata accompanied by Barber himself. On the recording he is accompanied by Vladimir Sokoloff, and Cole was by that time on the Curtis faculty. The anthology album, however, also includes a brief spoken introduction by Cole, reflecting on personal impressions of the music. Cole was still on the faculty when Kim arrived at Curtis, and it was through Cole that Kim came to know Barber's sonata and eventually record it.
As a result, there should be no surprise that the piano part is more than mere accompaniment. Nevertheless, all of the expressiveness contributed by the piano serves as just the right complement to the expressiveness of the cello part. In other words Rachmaninoff approached Opus 19 as a conversation between equals, and Kim and Kennard could not have done a better job of conveying the parity of their exchanges.
Taken as a whole, this is anything but a "plain old sonata album;" and the attentive listener will be rewarded by the opportunity to listen to a pair of sonatas, both of which deserve more attention than they have been getting over the last century or so.
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Sergey Rachmaninov and Samuel Barber were both twenty-somethings when they composed their only sonatas for cello and piano. These are works of young firebrands, full of emotional urgency and heightened instrumental challenges, which are met to striking effect in the performances offered on this new recording by the cellist Jonah Kim and pianist Sean Kennard.
All the hallmarks of Rachmaninov's mature style are present in his Sonata for piano and violoncello, Op 19, from brooding lyricism and propulsive fervour to virtuoso flights. It may be telling that piano comes before cello in the work's title, since Rachmaninov, with his seemingly superhuman technique, was at the keyboard for the premiere in Moscow in 1901. So rich is the piano-writing that the danger of the cello being swallowed whole could be a significant concern. But Kim and Kennard balance their efforts judiciously, with the cellist contributing poetic vibrancy and depth amid his colleague's exceptional agility, nuance and power.
Barber wrote his Sonata – titled, also tellingly, for violoncello and piano, Op 6 – towards the end of his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music. Like Rachmaninov, the American composer was the pianist at the work's premiere, in 1933 in New York. Its three movements abound in open-hearted gestures, alternately impassioned, noble and reflective, with Brahms at times gazing over Barber's shoulder. With his pulsating vibrato and intense expressivity, Kim asserts the cello's eloquent personality throughout the varied atmospheres. Kennard brings utmost clarity and shapeliness to Barber's pianistic utterances, which confirm that this composer was also a player of lofty accomplishment.
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Cellist Johan Kim and pianist Sean Kennard were together as teenagers at the Curtis Institute and again at Juilliard. For Rachmaninoff and Barber Cello Sonatas, their first album on the Delos label, they have chosen Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata Op.19 and Samuel Barber's Cello Sonata Op.6 (Delos DE 3574 naxosdirect.com/search/de+3574).
The composers were both in their 20s when writing the works, and heart-on-sleeve romanticism and expansive melodies are common to both sonatas. Despite the balanced writing in the Rachmaninoff, there's a notoriously difficult piano part which Kennard handles superbly.
There's a deeply personal link to the Barber sonata here. Barber himself studied at the Curtis Institute and wrote his sonata there in 1932 with help from cellist and fellow student Orlando Cole, who premiered the work with Barber in 1933. Cole, who died in 2010 at 101, taught at Curtis for 75 years and counted Johan Kim among his students; Kim and Kennard received priceless coaching from Cole in their performance of the work.
There's an abundance of lovely playing here, with a beautiful cello tone and a rich and sonorous piano sound perfectly suited to the flowing melodic lines that are central to these strongly Romantic works.
San Francisco's St. Ignatius Parish, in an effort to keep us all spiritually close while we are physically apart, will livestream from St. Ignatius Church 24/7, in support of your devotionals, prayer, and comfort seeking in this uncertain time. This is where 10:00am Sunday Mass will be celebrated live each week; other worship opportunities are listed at our parish website, www.stignatiussf.org.
St. Ignatius Church will feature Cellist Jonah Kim and Pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi in 'Meditations and Celebrations: Songs of the Piano and Cello' on Thursday September 3, 2020 @7:30pm PT. The program is as follows.
Bach - Gamba Sonata in G Major, BWV 1027
Greig - Cello Sonata in A Minor, Op.36
Popper - Begegnung Op. 3, No. 5
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Kim and Kennard met as teenagers at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, and had the privilege of being coached in Barber's Cello Sonata by Orlando Cole, who gave its first performance in 1933, and was described by Barber as ‘the physician at its birth'. With Barber having studied at Curtis himself and Rachmaninoff often having stayed next door to the institute, this made the programme for the duo's first CD together an easy choice.
The Curtis pair give a moving and musically satisfying performance of the Rachmaninoff. Kim's full-bodied, rounded cello sound is ideal for the work's Romantic lyricism and the energy and passion of his playing carry the listener along with them. The Scherzo is a touch on the steady side, but this allows for very well-defined triplets and pizzicatos.
Kim gives plenty of space to the broad phrases of the Barber. The Presto scherzo section in the middle of the slow movement, Brahmsian in its cross-rhythms, is beautifully light, with crisp low-tessitura spiccato. His wide vibrato, mostly well suited to this repertoire, becomes a little too audible near the end of this movement.
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When cellist Jonah Kim was just 15 years old, Washington Post music critic Joseph McLellan called him "the next Yo-Yo Ma."
Kim is in his early 30s now, and he's carving out a path all his own. His new album, recorded with pianist Sean Kennard, features sonatas by Samuel Barber and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Kim and Kennard began playing together at the Curtis Institute about 20 years ago, in part because they were two of the youngest enrolled students. Kim recalls that he was 10 or 11 and that Kennard was about 13 when they first played the Rachmaninoff sonata together.
When asked how their performance of the Rachmaninoff has changed in the past two decades, Kim said his music-making is very similar to his tastes in food. "When I was fourteen," he says, "it didn't matter what cuisine [I was eating] - I put hot sauce on everything. At this point, I think I have a little more taste."
For him, this increased taste level translates into greater and more frequent contrasts in the music, but more patience, too. "There are more peaks and valleys, and yet the gestures are not as abrupt or as sudden," he says. "It's just more patient."
Kim has studied with some of the greatest cellists of the 20th century, including Janos Starker and Orlando Cole. He's grateful that they encouraged him to play musically and with strong technique, instead of just allowing him to rely on what he calls "tricks" and "gestures."
In addition to the Rachmaninoff, the new album includes the cello sonata by Samuel Barber. Kim's teacher Orlando Cole gave the premiere of the sonata with Barber himself at the piano in 1932, when Barber and Cole (or "Sammy" and "Landy") were students at the Curtis Institute. Kim recalls that, during his lessons, Cole would show him and Kennard letters that Barber had sent about the sonata and other pieces.
The new album, featuring Kennard and Kim playing sonatas of Rachmaninoff and Barber, is out this week on the Delos label, and here are excerpts from the new album, featuring sonatas by Rachmaninoff and Barber.
LISTEN TO THE IPR SEGMENT