Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim is a Busy Man – Another Day, Another Debut

From the Philadelphia Inquirer Weekend Section

Friday, April 28, 2000

Classical Music

By Charles Huckabee

INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

 

The debuts keep coming for David Kim.

In his debut season as concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he has led the string sections and taken violin solos in many orchestral pieces, and he will have his debut as a featured soloist with the orchestra in Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy this summer at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Sunday afternoon, he’ll make his debut in the orchestra’s chamber music series, performing in Dvorak’s Piano Quartet in E-flat major (Opus 87) with music director Wolfgang Sawallisch at the keyboard and two friends and colleagues in the other parts: the orchestra’s principal violist, Roberto Diaz, and associate principal cellist, Peter Stumpf.

The program also includes two string quartets, by Ligeti and Mendelssohn.

Though Kim, 36, has performed chamber music this season in New Hope with the Concordia Players, a group organized by his friend Michelle Djokic, he says he has had to turn down other opportunities because of his duties as concertmaster.

“Everything was so new, and everything was 20th-century,” he said of the literature the orchestra has performed this season. “I’ve only started orchestral playing, so I’ve been busy learning music every week. It doesn’t take much — going to somebody’s house for dinner on a Sunday night — to totally disrupt my schedule.

Chamber music, though, has always been an important part of his life and career. For five years, he performed in a string trio with Diaz and Diaz’s brother Andre, a cellist. Eleven years ago, he founded a chamber music festival at Kingsport, R.I., which he still runs. He’ll be there this summer in between stints with the orchestra and the Mann and Saratoga, N.Y

Guests at his festival have included friends like the Diazes and old classmates such as Djokic, a cellist; violinist Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg; pianist Andrew Litton, music director of the Dallas Symphony; and Evan Wilson, principal violist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. (That “class, by the way, would be the precollege and college divisions of the Juilliard School of Music in New York in the 1970s and 1980s.) “They come because they’re old friends, and because we love each other and love getting together, Kim said by telephone from Ohio, where he and his wife, Jane, were visiting her parents last weekend.

”I’m very proud of what I’ve done in Rhode Island,” he said, adding that one of the most satisfying parts has been seeing friends go on to start series of their own.

Djokic, who has worked and performed with Kim since the Rhode Island festival’s first year, credits him as a motivator in her founding of the New Hope group three years ago.

“I’ve learned so much from David,” Djokic said this week from her home in Connecticut. Whether working with the board or the musicians, she said, “he brings people together in an easy ways. He’s always so elegant with the way he deals with everyone. In rehearsals, he’s as pleasant as can be. When he wants something played a certain way, he suggests it by example. And I usually have to agree he’s right. I’ve never seen him upset anyone.”

She also credits Kim with “great support” of her Concordia Players series. “He’s played on almost every concert we’ve done,” she said, including one two weeks ago in which Kim performed as a soloist in Each’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor; ;and in the Ravel Piano Trio and the Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor.

Remind Kim of a performance with the Concordia Players earlier this year of the Arensky Piano Trio in D minor, and you can sense the blush at the other end of the line as he hastens to take responsibility for a misstep noted in a review. When he launched the second movement, his partners, Djokic and pianist Gall Niwa, were not with him. “I started without making sure everyone was ready,” he said, “and of course we had a train wreck and had to start over” — but not before Kim was heard to say to his colleagues “Are we all ready?”

“I was completely joking,” he insisted.

Djokic laughed and explained further: “David did something he never does. He started without Gail. I looked around and saw the look on her face, and I stopped playing. But I’m glad it went that way because we started again, and it went perfectly.

“David is a person of such goodwill, the Philadelphia Orchestra is blessed to have him.”

For his part, Kim seems happy to be here. After renting during his first, “probationary” season, he and his wife have just bought a house in Bryn Mawr. And there’s at least one more debut in their future: They expect their first child in October.

Charles Huckabee’s e-mail address is chuckabee@phillynews.com

The Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Series, with Wolfgang Sawallisch, piano; David Kim, Yayoi Numazawa, Hirono Oka, and Yumi Ninomiya Scott, violin; Choong-Jin Chang, Roberto Diaz and David Nicastro, viola; Ohad Bar-David and Peter Stumpf, cello; at the Academy of Music Ballroom, Broad and Locust Streets, at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $18. Phone: 215-893-1999.