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Pianist Kim Sun-wook to make formal debut as conductor in December

Pianist Kim Sun-wook (Vincero)
Pianist Kim Sun-wook (Vincero)

Having already had performances postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pianist Kim Sun-wook seems headed for a busy year-end, making his official debut as a conductor along with plans for solo and duo recitals.

Kim, 32, who became the first Asian and youngest winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006, will mark his formal debut as a conductor by leading the KBS Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 14 at the Lotte Concert Hall in Jamsil, eastern Seoul. Kim received a master of arts degree in conducting from the Royal Academy of Music in 2013.

In 2015, Kim led the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” pas de deux as an artist in residence. Kim was to lead the orchestra again in April, but that concert has been postponed to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Dec. 14, Kim will perform on the piano for the Beethoven Egmont Overture, Op. 84 and Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 19. He will then take the baton for Brahms Symphony No. 2, Op. 73.

“If a piano were a small universe, an orchestra is literally a big one. (Playing the) piano is definitely useful in analyzing an orchestral composition as a piano has a wider range of sounds compared to other instruments and also gives a better understanding of chords,” Kim said in a press release issued by music production company Vincero on Wednesday.

“However, playing the piano well does not directly lead to good conducting. A piano is played alone, but an orchestra is not. Alone, a conductor cannot create a single sound,” he said.

“When I become more experienced as a conductor, there will be no limit to the programs that I want to try. An orchestra can create music that a piano cannot.”

Also coming in December is a duo recital with violinist Chung Kyung-wha for the complete Brahms violin sonatas on Dec. 8 at the same venue.

Chung is acclaimed for her repertoire of the three Brahms violin sonatas, having released a recording of the sonatas on EMI Classics with pianist Peter Frankl in 1998. The album received the Diapason d’Or, a prestigious award for classical music recordings. She also held a series of recitals in September last year with pianist Kevin Kenner, presenting the sonatas.

Kim’s Beethoven recital, which has been postponed twice, will also be held in December at the Seoul Arts Center. The recital originally slated for March was pushed back to September. It was postponed yet again due to a resurgence in the number of COVID-19 cases in Greater Seoul.

At the December recital, Kim will perform Beethoven Andante Favori, WoO 57; Piano Sonata No. 30, Op. 109; Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 110; and Piano Sonata No. 32, Op. 111. The exact date of the recital has yet to be confirmed.

By Im Eun-byel (