When Insoo Kim takes up his bow to play Alexander Glazunov's "Violin Concerto in A Minor" with the MIT Symphony Orchestra on Friday, Dec. 5, he will interpret the slow, romantic first movement by imagining a sweet breeze wafting over a green pasture. He'll express the jumpier, more playful spirit in the last of the piece's three continuous movements by picturing people from another era circling around in a dance and trading partners.
"You put yourself in a mindset, and it sort of comes out that way," said Kim, a junior in management who was selected as the fall soloist for MITSO's annual Concerto Competition.
Kim credits Henry Rubin, a Juilliard graduate and favorite longtime instructor, with teaching him how to visualize music and think more artfully about playing. Rubin also introduced Kim to the Glazunov concerto, composed by the Russian 99 years ago and performed by Kim once before during his senior year in high school in Houston.
"It's an underrepresented piece," Kim said, describing the 16 or 17 minutes of music as passionate and entertaining, with a full range of tone and pitch that will not put the audience to sleep. "People need to hear it more. Not many people know about it, and it's my favorite concerto--stylistically, artistically and technically."
Kim's favorite part of the piece is the cheerful allegro occurring right after the last movement's challenging cadenza, a moment when the rest of the orchestra falls silent and Kim must play acrobatic lines other musicians have called monstrously difficult.
"One mistake, one slip of the finger, could completely stop you, and you won't know how to get back into the piece," said Kim, who began playing with a half-size violin in first grade. "The hardest thing is to prepare well enough to keep flying, to prepare so that you don't have to even think about your fingers pressing down. The fingers have to have a mind of their own and know the piece by second nature, because once that happens, you have more freedom to explore what's going on artistically."
In preparation for the concert in Kresge Auditorium, Kim has listened to different recordings of the music to incorporate interpretations he likes into his own playing style. He also tries to get in an hour of practice each day. Because Kim already knows the piece well, he hopes his only nervous episode--the first few minutes of his first practice with the orchestra two weeks ago--is behind him.
"When you're nervous, your hands tremble, so it's harder to control the bow, especially in the softer sections where you're supposed to play slow and long with the bow," Kim said. He added that fortunately, as the soloist, he is expected to play more loudly than the other 100 musicians in the orchestra.
Also on the program Friday night is the MITSO-commissioned world premiere of Giovanni D'Aquila's "Through the Mines of Moria" and Symphony No. 11 by Dimitri Shostakovich, a composer taught and profoundly influenced by Glazunov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in the early 1900s.
Kim said he plans to attend law school after graduation but hopes to join an orchestra or chamber group there for fun. "Definitely I will never stop playing violin," he said. "It's the one thing that makes me who I am."
Kim has invited several friends to the concert and looks forward to relatives flying in from Korea to hear him.
"If my family is there, I play for them," he said. "I'm very grateful that they introduced me to this, helped me get a private teacher and stood by me while I learned. I owe a lot to my parents."
The concert begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5 in Kresge Auditorium. Admission is $5 at the door. For more information, call 452-2394.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 3, 2003.