Benny Kim and Grace Fong

March 15, 2021, 8:00 pm

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Benny Kim

This is a rebroadcast of an all Brahms program from May 16, 2016.

Whether playing in the intimate setting of a string quartet or performing a concerto on the stage of a concert hall, Benny Kim’s “emotional depth and musical carriage are his real drawing cards. His is a style that touches the peak of romantic violín playing.” (The Washington Post) Known for his versatility as soloist, chamber musician, and teacher, Mr. Kim has been described as having “titanium technique” and producing “exquisite, pearly colorations.”

Benny is a proud product of the Suzuki Method, which he began at age 10 with Doris Preucil. He continued his violín studies with Almita Vamos and at age 15 won the Chicago Symphony Youth Symphony Auditions, making his solo debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. One year later he won the St. Louis Symphony Youth Auditions and the Julius Stulberg Auditions. Kim went on to graduate with Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, where he studied with legendary pedagogue Dorothy DeLay. In 1983, Mr. Kim won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions at age 20. While at Juilliard, the residents of Macomb, IL, Benny’s hometown, heard the news that he was preparing to purchase a violin. This small community, along with faculty members of Western Illinois University, began a fundraising campaign to contribute to the purchase. In 1987 he acquired a 1732 Stradivarius violin.

Collaborating with long-time friends plays an important role in Benny Kim’s musical career and has resulted in two EMI recordings with Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Bella Italia and Night and Day, frequent performances with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and many engagements with his brother, cellist Eric Kim. In past seasons, Benny has performed in concert with violinist Daniel Hope at the Savannah Music Festival, Norway’s Trondheim Chamber Music Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, and most recently at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, New York, NY.

Benny has performed with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Detroit, and internationally with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Orquésta Sinfonica Nacional de México, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and the major orchestras of South Africa. In recital, Kim has performed in virtually every major city in the United States, including critically acclaimed engagements at New York’s 92nd St. Y and at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center.

Mr. Kim is first violinist of the Miami String Quartet, winner of the prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award, and Quartet in Residence at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Highlights of recent seasons include performances on the Quartets Plus Series at Carnegie Hall and the Fortas Chamber Music Series at the Kennedy Center. The quartet has also enjoyed working with students in limited residencies in Hong Kong and Bogotá, Colombia. The ensemble’s commitment to new music has led to many commissions and premieres, including Concierto de Cámara by Roberto Sierra, Septet by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Angels by Joan Tower, and Green Sneakers by Ricky Ian Gordon. Benny spends most summers playing chamber music with friends at
festivals around the world, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Music from Angel Fire, Bravo!-Vail Valley Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Mecklenburg and Schleswig–Holstein Festivals in Germany, and the Bristol Festival in England.

Benny and his golden retriever, Cubby, make their home outside Kansas City on the Falcon Ridge Golf Course.

Biography courtesy of UMKC website.

Grace Fong is a prize-winning American pianist with an international career as a concerto soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and contemporary keyboardist. Praised as “positively magical” (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and “immediately a revelation” (Arizona Central), Fong has gained critical acclaim in the United States, Canada, Europe, United Arab Emirates, and Asia. She has been featured at major venues including Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall; the Kennedy Center; the Musco Center for the Arts; Phillips Collection; the Hollywood Bowl; Great Hall in Leeds, UK; Reinberger Hall at Severance Hall; the Liszt Academy in Budapest; Konzerthaus Dortmund in Germany; and the National Center for Performing Arts, Beijing. Radio and television performances have included the British Broadcasting Company, “Performance Today” on National Public Radio, WFMT “Live from Chicago,” WCLV-FM Cleveland, KUSC Los Angeles, and the “Emerging Young Artists” series in New York. She has performed as a soloist with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra under Valery Gergiev, the Halle Orchestra in the United Kingdom under Mark Elder, the Polish Chamber Orchestra under WojcecRajski, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony, Pacific Symphony, and Music Academy of the West Festival Orchestra, among others.

Described by one critic as possessing “technical brilliance, infectious energy and sheer enjoyment of music making” (BC News), Fong is a gold medalist and prizewinner of numerous international competitions, including the prestigious Leeds in the United Kingdom, International Liszt, Cleveland International, Bosendorfer International, San Antonio International, Viardo International, Wideman International, and Music Academy of the West Concerto Competition. Special prizes have included “Best Performances” Prizes of Baroque, Classical, and Contemporary works, as well as the “Jury’s Selection” Prize. Fong is also the winner of one of America’s most prestigious piano awards, the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship of the American Pianists Association (the first female winner in 12 years).  She also won the Grand Prize in piano from the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts and thereafter was named a “Presidential Scholar in the Arts,’” for which she was awarded a performance at the Kennedy Center and presented with a medallion by the President of the United States at the White House.

Born in Los Angeles, Fong was a Trustee (full) Scholarship recipient at the University of Southern California where she completed a double major and minor. At USC, Fong was awarded the prestigious Renaissance Scholar Prize and was named “The USC Thornton School of Music Keyboard Department’s – Most Outstanding Student – B.M.” She completed her Master’s and Doctoral degrees at the Cleveland Institute of Music as a recipient of the Victor Babin Scholarship and was awarded the Sadie Zellen and William Kurzban piano prizes. At CIM, she studied with Sergei Babayan, who describes Fong as “not only a true artist and an exciting virtuoso, but a sensitive poet who can speak about the most important of subjects through the craft of her hands.” She also received the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award from the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Besides Sergei Babayan, her teachers and mentors include John Perry, Louise Lepley, Paulina Drake, and Norberto Cappone.

Fong is currently the Director of Piano Studies at Chapman University’s Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music where she has been awarded the Valerie Scudder award for faculty excellence.  Fong is an enthusiastic supporter of the education of young musicians and has served as guest artist and teacher at the Semper International Music Festival, the Costa Rica Piano Festival, the Innsbrook Summer Festival, the New Hampshire Music Festival, the Salt Spring Piano Festival, the Lee University International Piano Festival, the Reinhardt Piano Festival and Academy, the Montecito Summer Festival, and the Festival Les Recontres de Moita in Corsica. She serves as adjudicator for various competitions and has been the pre-concert lecturer for the Innsbrook Institute Festival, the Chapman University Lectio Magistralis, and the Orange County Philharmonic Society. As a distinguished chamber artist, she has performed at the Ojai Festival, Sitka Chamber Music Festival, Guan Du Festival Taipei, the Missouri River Arts Festival, the Callian Festival, France; Musica in Collina Festival, Italy; Palais de Festivals des Congres de Cannes, France.

Fong has embarked on a series of collaborations with dancers, filmmakers, chefs, fashion designers, and artists. Collaborations have included a music video filmed in London by Oscar-nominated and  multi-award winning film Director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) in collaboration with designers Jimmy Choo and Boudicca, which premiered at the Barbados Festival and the Deloitte Ignite Festival at the Royal Opera House in London; a performance at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg in Germany for the International Salon Project, in collaboration with 2-star Michelin Chef, Andree Köthe; performances with the band Pink Martini, with which Fong has shared the stage with some of America’s top orchestras and figures, including the Cleveland Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra, NPR’s Ari Shapiro, and the Emmy-Award winning Sesame Street; performances with Grammy-winning ensemble the Parker Quartet as well as with four-time Grammy-nominated Daniel Hope, winner of the Classical Brit Award, five times winner of the ECHO Klassik Prize, and the youngest-ever member of the Beaux Arts Trio; A production of Franz Liszt’s great Dante Symphony, inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, which intersected music, literature, dance, and film. In this dazzling multimedia performance, we collaborated with the Miami City Ballet dancers, the Miami’s Children Chorus, narrator Frank Cooper, coloratura Maria Aleida and award-winning filmmaker Ali Habashi; a collaboration with dance choreographer Alicia Okouchi-Guy, whose credits include Prince, the Oprah Winfrey Show, MTV, and the New York Knicks City Dancers, on a project entitled “Grace,” involving live solo piano and a dance trio; a performance entitled Music for Peace with original films by Darrel Dorr, former executive Vice President for International Productions at Disney Corporation and now Executive Vice President for live productions at Listen For Life.

In the 19-20 season, Fong collaborates with computer scientist and software engineer, Dr. Erik Linstead on the project, A Deep Learning Approach to Creating Accessibility-Friendly Representations of Music and Art for the Hearing and Visually Impaired. This project collaboration will benefit from the participation of Microsoft to explore the use of machine learning that takes music as input and generates a corresponding piece of art as output, and similarly, to take a piece of art as input, and generate corresponding musical notes as output with the ultimate goal to use this as an assistive technology for the visually or hearing impaired.

Fong can be seen on BBC television and PBS; she also can be heard on the RED label and on the Heinz label for Starbucks release.

Biography courtesy of the artist’s website.

  • Sonata No. 2 in A Major Op. 100, by Johannes Brahms
    Allegro amabile
    Andante tranquillo-Vivace
    Allegro grazioso (quasi Andante)

  • Sonata No. 1 in G Major Op. 78, by Johannes Brahms
    Vivace ma non troppo
    Allegro molto moderato

  • Scherzo from Violin and Piano in c minor, WoO posh. 2, by Johannes Brahms 
    from the F.A.E. Sonata

  • Sonata No. 3 in d minor Op. 108, Johannes Brahms
    Un poco presto e con sentimento
    Presto agitato