There are unfortunate cases where talented young artists hailed as prodigies slip into a dark period of “growing pains” and fail to take the next step in their career. They are often forgotten or labeled “ill-fated genius.”
Cho Seong-jin, 18, however, is proving to be a pleasant exception. This darling of the Korean classical music scene is enjoying every bit of his life while still holding onto his passion for music.
|Pianist Cho Seong-jin. (Vincero)|
Winner of International Frederick Chopin Competition in 2006 and Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2009 and third-place winner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2011, Cho is now a student at the Conservatoire National Suprieur de Musique de Paris and resides in Paris most of the time, splitting the rest of the year between Seoul and other cities where he tours.
“I love going to classical music concerts in Paris. There are so many,” Cho said in his interview with The Korea Herald last Wednesday. “I get to see so many great musicians. I become an audience member once again and just fall into their play.” He said he genuinely enjoys listening to classical music all day long and that he is not very fond of loud music anyway.
Cho is learning from Michel Beroff, a noted pianist, who led him to the world of Prokofiev and other composers from the early 20th century. “I am beginning to understand the charms of Prokofiev, the high level of technique. I think I am going to enjoy it while I am young and when I have the energy for it,” he said.
Cho will be performing with Lorin Maazel who will be leading the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra on April 22 at the Seoul Arts Center, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concert No. 4. The orchestra will perform sans Cho on April 21 at 5 p.m. at the same venue.
The pianist didn’t seem to be intimidated by the reputation of Maazel or the orchestra, which was ranked among the world’s 10 top orchestras by classical record label Deutsche Grammophon.
“It may be because I am quite shy ― it takes me a long time to feel comfortable around unfamiliar people ― but beyond their reputation, I am excited about what we will be doing with the music,” he said.
Cho said he is becoming fond of the Beethoven piece, which he has played numerous times since 2010. He said the piece shows everything great about Beethoven.
“I’ve read books about Beethoven. I don’t think he was much of a nice person. He was lonely and deaf at the end of his life, and wasn’t a friendly character at all,” he said.
“But this piece contains everything that he had in his golden days. Many motifs are feminine, serene, peaceful and rather romantic. It isn’t really like ‘Eroica’ or other concertos. I believe that Beethoven was in fact a happy man when he wrote this,” he said.
“I have been trying to figure out what he was thinking at the time he was writing this. Because he is dead I wouldn’t really know what he was thinking and he might not be happy with my interpretation. But I think it is a long path and I am getting closer to a certain point.”
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com