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[Herald Review] Cho Seong-jin lights up Seoul with 30-minute encore

Pianist Cho Seong-jin performs at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul on Wednesday. (Credia)
Pianist Cho Seong-jin performs at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul on Wednesday. (Credia)

The lobby of Seoul Arts Center’s Concert Hall was packed with concertgoers Wednesday afternoon, as if a K-pop band were due to play.

The people were eagerly awaiting a performance by concert pianist Cho Seong-jin.

Fans lined up to buy Cho’s autographed album. Another line was formed to take a photo in front of the recital placard. Compared to other classical music performances, the audience was mostly relatively younger woman in their 20s and 30s.

Cho, 26, who won the 2015 Chopin International Competition, held two recitals in Seoul on Wednesday, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. He is on a six-city nationwide recital tour, which kicked off in Gwangju on Oct. 28.

The tour was originally slated for July, to mark the release of Cho’s latest album “The Wanderer” in May, but had to be postponed due to the spread of COVID-19. The nine recitals were sold out within minutes of the ticket opening.

The audiences greeted the pianist with a loud applauds, who appeared on stage in a sharp black suit.

The afternoon’s recital began with Schumann’s Waldszenen “Forest Scenes.” With the work, Cho took the audiences on a delightful promenade, delicately portraying the scenes of a hidden forest. 

Audience members line up to purchase Cho Seong-jin’s autographed album prior to Wednesday afternoon’s recital. (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
Audience members line up to purchase Cho Seong-jin’s autographed album prior to Wednesday afternoon’s recital. (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

It was followed by Szymanowski’s “Masques,” Op. 34, a three-movement suite. Written in 1915-1916, the work is not often played.

“I wanted to introduce this piece because it is not often played on stages in Europe,” Cho said through in the program book. “This is a work that may not have a strong melody line, but it keeps coming to mind.”

The last work of the program was Schubert’s Fantasy in C major, D. 760, known as the “Wanderer Fantasy,” from Cho’s latest album.

Cho performed the piece with great passion, almost lifting his upper body off the seat. The audiences could hear his breathing even from the back, Cho’s face turning red as he performed the technically demanding piece, which Schubert had said was “too difficult” for him to play,

The 75-minute performance was followed by an encore. Cho played Liszt, Piano Sonata in B minor, S.178. The 30-minute work was the last piece on that evening’s program. The audience responded with a standing ovation.

Alternate seats were left empty following the government’s previous social distancing scheme practiced until Sunday at the 2,500-seat auditorium.

The evening program included Schumann’s Humoreske, Op. 20; Szymanows’s, “Masques,” Op.34 and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, S.178. The performance wrapped up with an encore of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Cho’s last recital is in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province on Nov. 9.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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