Last weekend, the Santa Cruz Symphony (SCS) presented a debut recital featuring its new Principal Cello, Jonah Kim.
The two time Grammy award winning cellist is an outstanding addition to our local Symphony. Kim’s extensive work across a range of genres with world-renowned artists, his expressive stage presence and talent as a cellist makes him a sensational musician to experience live in concert, both as an individual and in collaboration with others. In a program featured at Cabrillo College’s Samper Recital Hall, Kim lit up the stage alongside guest pianist Elizabeth Dorman, SCS Concertmaster Nigel Armstrong on violin, and SCS Music Director Daniel Stewart on viola.
It was impossible to tell that Kim and Dorman had only recently met for the first time. Their performance of Schumann and Brahms revealed the kind of dynamic and harmonic compatibility most apparent in musicians who have already shared the stage together many times. The graceful collaboration reflected their exceptionally wide-ranging talent as musicians, fostered by years of studying and performing with many of the musical world’s prominent artists and institutions.
Originally from Seoul, Korea, Kim immigrated to the United States in 1995, and at a young age trained at two highly distinguished conservatories – the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. Since his professional debut in 2003, he has become highly sought after internationally – soloing with famous orchestras, playing in prestigious venues, frequenting music festivals, recording at top studios, teaching master classes, and sharing his music through community outreach.
Dorman is originally from San Francisco, and likewise a celebrated soloist, chamber musician, educator, and recipient of musical awards. In her encore appearances as a guest pianist, the artist brings a poised and vibrant presence to the stage in Santa Cruz and beyond. The duo kept us riveted; Dorman’s piquant accompaniment on piano and Kim’s striking command of the cello transmitted the stirring qualities of Schumann and Brahms with colorful expression.
An intimate venue like the Samper Recital Hall offers the unique opportunity to experience chamber musicians in an accessible, informal way. Kim shared his refined understanding of musical nuances through a blend of humor and depth. His sophisticated performance was infused with his charismatic personality, making the pauses and dialogues between each movement as engaging as each moment of music. During an interlude, Kim shared how the music he plays takes on new meaning the more he lives with it, and how he associates certain pieces with phases of his own life or life in general. In particular, he invoked his perception of Cello Sonata No. 2 as the impassioned “bravado” of a young man and Cello Sonata No. 1 as the lingering “nostalgia” of an old man, thus helping to bring that experience alive for the audience.
Kim, Dorman, Armstrong, and Stewart ‘s phenomenal talent as individual musicians appeared even more charged in their playful interaction as a quartet. Performing Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 47, each musician melded with their instrument while seamlessly interacting with each other in a lively exchange. Their commitment to and passion for the music was contagious and inspired a well-deserved standing ovation.