Review: ‘All Roads’ Lead Back to Vienna on the Shea-Kim Duo’s Latest Album

Violinist Brendan Shea and pianist Yerin Kim are at their best in both Beethoven’s early Sonata and Schumann’s first Violin Sonata

By Laurence Vittes | From the November-December 2023 issue of Strings Magazine

In a recital loosely connected to composers who were, in the words of the liner notes “connected to Vienna in increasingly distant ways, like travelers along a long road,” the relaxed eloquence and long-limbed lyrical lines of violinist Brendan Shea and pianist Yerin Kim are at their best—in different ways—in both Beethoven’s early Sonata, Op. 12, No. 3, and Schumann’s first Violin Sonata. In imagining “generations of people from all different backgrounds living along a road that spans the world but inevitably lead back to Vienna,” they explore what turns out to be a surprisingly congenial if mixed bag of repertoire.


All Roads The Shea-Kim Duo (Blue Griffin)
All Roads, The Shea-Kim Duo (Blue Griffin)

In the Beethoven, they find the exuberant pleasures in the opening Allegro con spirito, and while Shea is taking a simpler approach to the elegant Adagio con molt’espressione, Kim is producing moments of exceptional, jeweled delight. Shea follows a more severe virtuosic line in the Schumann, and while he misses the elusive intimacy of the trills, he and Kim produce great compelling arches from Schumann’s epigrammatic inspirations.

Amy Beach’s Romance

In Amy Beach’s Romance, Op. 23, which has become an increasingly popular encore piece and provides a startling contrast itself to the Schumann it follows, they inject the music with a passionate retro-Romanticism, including some wonderful portamenti from Shea. And between Beethoven and Schumann, they revel in the five moments of Alfred Schnittke’s mock evocation of times past called Suite in the Old Style, most effectively in the concluding Pantomime where they deftly exploit the contrast between the poignant opening and the composer’s anticipation of a faux cadenza that never comes.