The USC Symphony Orchestra, directed by Donald Portnoy, opens its season with a concert featuring a violinist familiar to the city.
David Kim, a former Columbia resident, will perform Violin Concert No.1 in G Minor, op. 26 by the German Romantic composer Max Bruch. Also on tonight’s program, Brahms Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, op. 98. Kim is the concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra, known most recently as the first major orchestra in the country to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The orchestra emerged from Chapter 11 in July.
Kim lived in Columbia from age 7 to 15, attending Caughman Road Elementary and Hopkins Middle schools. Born in western Pennsylvania, Kim began studying violin at age 3. He moved to the city when his parents were hired at USC. His father taught computer science; his mother, piano. After moving to Columbia, Kim would fly to New York ever other Saturday for lessons. At 11, Kim began making trips on his own. Shortly after Kim’s mother died, his father moved to Buffalo, N.Y.
In 2006, Kim performed another Bruch piece with USC Symphony. “Scottish Fantasy,” based on real Scottish tunes, was met with written applause by critic Gregory Barnes.
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“Even a so-so performance usually brings down the house, and this one by David Kim was anything but so-so,” Barnes wrote in his review for The State. “Kim calls to mind Nathan Milstein at mid-20th century: accuracy and meticulous cleanliness above all, and hardly even aware of it. You are stunned by his seemingly effortless and supremely elegant playing.”
Last week Kim, who was performing in Japan, answered questions via e-mail for The State.
Q: Obviously, working with a student orchestra, there will be those who want to pick your brain. What is a piece of advice that you continuously share with musicians?
A: Sometimes college students, on the cusp of entering “the real world,” become discouraged, thinking the road ahead is impossible because their playing is not at a world-class level. Well, now having made the rounds in the music world, I’m realizing that just as important, if not more than how one plays their instrument, is people skills — the ability to work well with others, to warmly speak with colleagues and truly care about them and their lives, and to possess a sixth sense of when it is the right time to speak up or to remain quietly supportive in the background. I guess that goes for any profession and not just music.
Q: Press materials state you will be performing Bruch’s popular Violin Concerto No. 1. What makes it a piece that you enjoy playing?
A: The Bruch Concerto is a compact work, which I like. The orchestra is fully engaged and is not purely accompanimental, so it feels like a large symphonic work. Bruch packs in lots of beautiful melodies, excitement and violinistic flash — all of which I love in a concerto. Plus, I have performed the work all over the world and have so many precious memories with it. It will be very special for me to perform it in my hometown.
Q: For obvious reasons, violinists are particular about their instrument. What kind do you play, and why did you select it as your trusted on-stage companion?
A: Although I own a wonderful violin, I perform on one made in 1757 in Milan, Italy, by J.B. Guadagnini. It is owned by my employer, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and I am free to use it throughout my career. The use of this violin is one of the great perks of my job.
Q: What’s most important to you when interpreting a centuries-old piece of music?
A: I want the audience to fall in love with my sound. After all, we’re talking about live music here, right? It’s a concert and if they don’t love the sound of my violin, then no matter how virtuosic I am, it is not a visceral experience that will stay in their ears and hearts as they leave the concert hall.