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Sunwoo Yekwon shares his ‘Mozart soul’ through new album

Pianist Sunwoo Yekwon performs during a press event held at Ode Port music complex in southern Seoul on Tuesday. (Mast Media)
Pianist Sunwoo Yekwon performs during a press event held at Ode Port music complex in southern Seoul on Tuesday. (Mast Media)
Album cover image for “Mozart” by Sunwoo Yekwon (Mast Media)
Album cover image for “Mozart” by Sunwoo Yekwon (Mast Media)

Though more often associated with the names of Romantic composers -- Chopin, Schumann and Schubert, for example -- pianist Sunwoo Yekwon hopes to share the Mozart side of himself through a new album.

Concert pianist Sunwoo Yekwon, 31, who rose to global stardom three years ago winning the gold medal at the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, has released his first studio album under the Decca label. The 19-track album was recorded this summer in Neumarkt, Germany.

Simply titled “Mozart,” the album consists of piano sonatas Nos. 8 and 10, Adagio for Glass Harmonica in C major, K. 356/617a, Fantasia in C minor, K. 475 and D minor, K. 397 and Rondo in A minor, K. 511, all composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).

“I know that I haven’t mentioned Mozart often in my interviews or at official events,” Sunwoo said at a press event Tuesday in southern Seoul. “Mozart is a composer whom I have always loved. It is true I had not thought of him for recordings. But these days, I feel closer to him.”

“Mozart piano sonatas have aria-like aspects. Though a pianist, I tried to imagine opera singers and stage directing, imitating the sounds of a string instrument,” the Berlin-based artist said, further mentioning that his favorite Mozart opera is “Don Giovanni.”

The album consists of two CDs. Sunwoo explained one may be more appropriate for daytime and the other for nighttime listening. The album comes with a score copy of Rondo in A minor, K. 511, with handwritten notes by Sunwoo.

“I thought about how I could make the listeners more comfortable while listening to the album. Classical music artists are often not so skilled with words,” he said. “I also hope that younger musicians can learn from the notes, seeing how I interpret the scores.”

After the recording, Sunwoo took a break from the piano for more than a month – for nearly the first time in his life.

“Things were and still are very uncertain. (The COVID-19 pandemic) is new to everyone. I was depressed … and I tried to stay away (from the piano),” he recounted.

“Then, I started to practice again and realized that I was happy to listen to the sound of the piano. It is a blessing that I can practice the piano and I felt alive. Of course, things are still difficult but I realized why I am living the life of a performer,” the pianist said.

Celebrating the release of the first studio album, Sunwoo will go on a nationwide tour from Dec. 30 to Jan. 29, performing in seven cities, including Gwangju, Busan and Daegu. The Seoul engagement of the tour will take place on Jan. 26 at Lotte Concert Hall in southeastern Seoul.

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