Review: Vivien Horler
Gone – a girl, a violin, a life unstrung (Viking/ Penguin)
Min Kym was a child prodigy violinist. Born in South Korea, her family moved to London when she was three, where her father worked for Daewoo.
Her older sister was musical, and the two girls would play “duets” together in their bedroom at night, the sister playing on a drawn paper keyboard and Min on a paper violin.
At a very young age Min was given an eight-size violin, harsh and factory made, but she loved it, loved the feel of it, and by the time of her first lesson she had taught herself to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
Playing a violin was not simply for Min, it was Min, she writes. Everything about it was easy and natural: “I had found, not only my home and my voice, but my element… I felt like a creature released, alive in herself for the first time.”
Her sister, nine at the time, was a good enough pianist to get into the Purcell School for Young Musicians, Britain’s oldest specialist musical school. Min at seven was too young, but one day while she and her mother were collecting her sister, Min carrying her violin, the headmaster asked her if she could play.
Certainly, she said, and played Bach’s Concerto in A minor. Afterwards the headmaster said he thought he could bend the rules, allowing her to start at the school two years earlier than usual. He would also see if he could provide some financial help.
Things didn’t run entirely smoothly – Min’s dad was posted back to South Korea – and it was some years before Min could take up her place.
She studied with some top teachers including the legendary Ruggiero Ricci at the University of Salzburg, and became a student at the Royal College of Music. She bought her first proper violin, a Carlo Bergonzi, for £250 000, partly funding the purchase with money she had won in a competition. She became a soloist, played with the likes of Vladimir Ashkenazy, made a recording. Continue reading