Kong studied at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music. She enjoys an award-winning career in both solo and chamber music performance and teaching. She performs in the world’s concert halls including Carnegie Hall, and her live performances have been internationally broadcast. She collaborates with musicians including Elliot Fisk, Richard Stoltzman, Charles Wadsworth and Sarah Chang.
“I am often provoked by the music to feel a certain way,” said Kong. She said music is a like a mirror that reflects who we are or at least a part of some experience of our lives. “I don’t want my audience to be limited by my story,” she said, adding, “but dare to look into this mirror themselves.
Ransom collaborates with musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Richard Stoltzman, and members of the Tokyo, Cleveland, and Juilliard String Quartets. In addition to his faculty position, he is founder and Artistic Director of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta. A graduate of Juilliard and of the University of Michigan, he is Artistic Director of both the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina and the Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival in Alaska.
Audience members at last week’s A Little Lunch Music would have heard clarinetist David Odom perform with pianist Jeremy Samolesky. The two performed Johannes Brahms’s clarinet sonata Op. 120, no. 2. This week, Kong and Ransom will perform no. 1, transcribed for viola.
Ransom said the two Brahms sonatas are very different. Where no. 2 is more reflective, no. 1 is very dramatic and passionate. “It rekindled his youth,” said Ransom, noting that the piece was written near the end of the composer’s life.
Brahms was known for writing very long, substantial works for piano, for orchestra, and for chamber groups. Near the end of his life, he was mainly writing short pieces for piano and organ. “He had pretty much given up what he called professional composing,” said Ransom.
Hearing a performance by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld inspired Brahms to write serious pieces again, said Ransom. He wrote these two sonatas, a trio, and a quintet, all which featured the clarinet. These were the last four of Brahms’s works that had the substance and length of his earlier signature pieces.
Compared to the Reger sonata, Kong said the Brahms piece is much more subtle and abstract. “For me it is more a mood, some thoughts here and there,” she said.
Ransom said the last movement of the sonata is brilliant and validictory. “It’s a very positive movement that ends in a bright, sunny mood,” he said.