BEETHOVEN Piano Sonatas Nos 8, 14 & 23
The still-young winner of the 2006 Leeds Competition presented his Beethoven credentials more than impressively with the Hammerklavier and Waldstein last year (1/16). For his follow-up he stays with familiar named sonatas, and the results are, if anything, even more striking.
Kim is blessed with technical command, intelligence and communicative flair in equal measure and at a very high level. The first of these is hard to miss: the treacherous outer movements of the Appassionata are crystal-clear, even under the greatest dramatic strain, and the finale of the Moonlight goes at the fullest of Presto agitatos, without the slightest suspicion of gabble. Unlike many, including even some household names, his sound never grates in fortissimo, and again that’s not for want of forcefulness. Nor is there any fault to be found with his cantabile and legato. These strengths are never indulged in for their own sake. Kim has an unerring sense of underlying harmonic tension and tonal design, plus the skill to apply colour and blend accordingly, which gives his playing both eloquence and architectural solidity and saves him from having to rely on gimmicky exaggeration to make his mark.
No buts, really. Could he be even more daring in places? Perhaps, and perhaps he will be when the time is right. Perhaps the first-movement Grave introduction in the Pathétique is so spaced-out as to feel like special pleading; but it works out in the longer term as the polar opposite to the Sturm und Drang main sections. Perhaps the more connoisseur-like of Beethoven’s sonatas will find Kim wanting as an interpreter; but on this evidence I certainly wouldn’t bank on it. Recording quality is splendid, incidentally, Berlin’s Jesus-Christus-Kirche, as captured here, offering the optimum in clarity, warmth and impact.