Life seems perfect for 27-year-old pianist Son Yeol-eum at the moment.
She has performed with internationally acclaimed orchestras, recorded a few albums and toured around the world while studying with Arie Vardi at the Hochschule fr Musik, Theatre und Medien in Hannover, Germany.
It almost seems like growing pains, often detected among so-called child prodigies, have passed her. Since she started playing the piano at the age of 3-1/2, Son never had a setback ― she has won several international awards, staged at major concert halls around the world, and collaborated with impressive artists.
Moreover, she is not the kind of person who tries to stay away from the “entertainment” of the outside world for the sake of musicianship. She takes long vacations, enjoys nights out and hangs around with friends even if it sometimes takes her away from the piano for several weeks. She lives the life of any 27-year-old woman.
|Pianist Son Yeol-eum poses for The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul on Wednesday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
“I never consider myself perfect. But I don’t think ‘containing’ myself is the best thing for my piano career,” Son said in her interview with The Korea Herald on Wednesday. “But at the same time, relaxing myself like this helps me gain a certain control of myself, though I do not really like that word,” she said.
The second prize winner of the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition is holding her first major recital tour in Korea. It started on Tuesday in Daegu, followed by a Feb. 23 performance in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province; March 1 in Jeonju in North Jeolla Province; March 5 in Daejeon and will wrap up at the Seoul Arts Center on March 7 at 8 p.m.
She will play Chopin’s ballade, mazurkas, waltz and scherzo; Alkan’s etude; Prokofiev’s sonata and Kapustin’s etude. All of the scores were handpicked by Son and are expected to highlight her virtuosity.
“They are the ‘transcendent execution,’” noted Credia, the concert organizer.
“I wanted the concert to have a certain flow, with contrasting pieces. While Chopin scores are rather all-over romantic, Prokofiev sounds like the anti-romantic outside. But later you’ll find out that there is more than that,” the pianist said.
About her unusual choice of Alkan and Kapustin, she said she wanted to try out something that others have never, or hardly, tried before.
“I think I am the first or among the very few, who plays Alkan here. I never intended to flaunt my skills,” she said. But Alkan’s “Le festin d’Esope” is famous for requiring high level of technique.
And for Kapustin, Son is not concerned. She already has the experience of making people fall in love with the Russian contemporary composer. In 2011 she stunned the audience at the Tchaikovsky Competition when she played his piece. It was groundbreaking for a young artist to play contemporary classical music at the highly respected event with a long history.
“I could detect the commotion even when I was playing. But guess what? Kapustin’s publisher in London contacted me a couple of days later thanking me because all of a sudden, Kapustin scores sales soared! I had a chance to correspond with Kapustin, who also said he enjoyed listening to me play,” she said.
“If people here say they found a new composer interesting and lovable, it’s my mission accomplished.”
It must be an interesting thing for people to see Son mature since she admitted that she has changed a lot.
“Before I was focused on appealing my aptitude to other people ― which is the reason why I had to get into so many competitions early in my career. But now, what matters is what the composers wanted to say, and what I feel about it. The connection between the music and I has gotten deeper and I am bettering,” she said. “And I hope people can feel that.“
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com)