Kyung Wha Chung emigrated from Korea to the USA at the age of 12, to take up a scholarship at the Juilliard School in New York city.
In 1967, at the age of 19, she won the Edgar Leventritt competition (jointly with Pinchas Zukerman) – her mother had reportedly sold the family home in Korea in order to buy her a Stradivarius for the competition.
This was her debut recording in 1970 with Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra. I bought it in London in the late 70s. It’s still my favourite Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto – maybe because I have grown up with it.
Aside from breath-taking technical mastery, she is tender, flowing and feminine, but also robust, strong and energetic – Korean attributes – but she is always servant to the music.
12 years later in 1982, she recorded the Tchaikovsky again, this time coupled with the ravishingly beautiful Mendelssohn Concerto (instead of the Sibelius).
She paved the way for other Asian musicians to succeed in the western classical world.
Until she became a world-class violinist, it was only remotely possible for a Korean to achieve that kind of success. It was like a dream in the clouds. But she showed it was possible.
Kyung Soo Won, conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
Here she is playing the Mendelssohn Concerto in 1971 with Previn and the LSO:
And the equally beautiful Bruch Violin Concerto No.1, in 1974:
Interview with Kyung Wha Chung (around 2001):