Going with the Force at the Verbier Festival

By Inge Kjemtrup

Kyung Wha Chung is routinely described as a “force of nature,” an expression that, along with “living legend,” is so overused as to have become pretty much meaningless.

But I can sympathize with those who end up using that expression, because the 68-year-old Korean violinist is in fact a musically powerful, uh, force, especially now that she’s back in the spotlight after a long break due to injury. And, as far as I can tell from hearing her in concert and interviewing her for an upcoming issue of Strings, Kyung Wha Chung pretty happy to be back.


I’m seeing Chung at the Verbier Festival in the Swiss Alps, where the literal forces of nature flex their muscles on a regular basis. Visitors soon learn that while cellphone weather apps are all very well and good, when you hear the sound of thunder rumbling down the mountain, it’s best to open your umbrella and seek shelter from the coming downpour as quickly as you can.

Photo: Nicolas Brodard/Verbier Festival

In between my Kyung Wha Chung encounters, I’ve been listening to other musicians perform at the festival, including Chung’s Warner Classics label stable mate, American violinist Benjamin Beilman. His partner in a morning recital was Italian pianist (and New York City resident) Alessio Bax; their mutually energetic approach was at its most effective in the Schubert Fantaisie D.934. New musical forces in the making.

I’ll come round to cheese again to end this post. A highlight of this week’s outdoor market, which I unfortunately missed was “Démonstration de fabrication de fromage” (cheese-making demonstration). In Switzerland, the force of cheese is mighty (how the lactose-intolerant cope, I don’t know). May the force of fromage be with you.