Myung Whun Chung's Exquisite New ECM Release, Piano

Written by
South Korean-born composer and pianist Myung Whun Chung.
South Korean-born composer and pianist, Myung Whun Chung. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Yesterday, I received a treasure trove of new classical music from ECM Records, short for Edition of Contemporary Music. Founded in 1969 by producer Manfred Eicher in Munich, Germany, ECM first established its bearings as a jazz label, signing artists like Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, and Chick Corea, before expanding its repertoire to span pre-baroque to contemporary composition with the ECM New Series, which features artists like Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, and Meredith Monk. Lauded for its remarkable artist roster, edgy performances, superb production values, and extraordinary recorded sound, ECM is widely recognized as a premiere label that pushes ever-forward, challenging the existing notion of genres.

I’ve chosen to highlight a new release by South Korean-born pianist and conductor, Myung Whun Chung. It’s called, simply, Piano. A 1974 runner-up in the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition for young pianists in Moscow, Chung later served as assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the late Carlo Maria Giulini’s tenure in the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Regarded mostly for his conducting career, this new album proves that Chung is every bit as equally gifted as a performer of classical piano works. He isn’t some new hot shot on the scene like Chinese pianist Lang Lang, but being the seasoned conductor that he is, Chung gets the music’s larger picture, and his playing reflects this.

The selections on this new release are just as exquisite as any solo classical piano album. Chung tackles ambitious works by Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Schumann, and Mozart, executing these piano standards beautifully. Recorded at the Teatro La Fenice (Venice) opera house, Piano is one album that I know I will enjoy repeatedly and keep in my library forever.

An exclusive interview with Myung Whun Chung on his new ECM release, Piano. 

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