Seong-Jin Cho was brought to world attention in 2015 when he won First Prize at the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. Four years earlier, aged only 17, he had won 3rd Prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition (Moscow). With his overwhelming talent and natural musicality, he is considered one of the most captivating artists of his generation. Born in 1994 in Seoul, Seong-Jin began studying piano at age 6. In 2008, aged 14, he won 1st prize at the Moscow International Frederick Chopin Competition and in 2009 the 1st prize at Japan’s Hamamatsu International Piano Competition (the youngest winner ever).
Mr. Cho has performed with distinguished orchestras including the Royal Concertgebouw, Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Radio Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Russian National Orchestra, and Radio France Philharmonic, under renowned conductors such as Lorin Maazel and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Future engagements include concerts with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Accademia Santa Cecilia di Roma, Tokyo Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Mr. Cho’s’s upcoming debut recitals include Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London International Piano series, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, Prague Spring Festival, Klavier Festival Ruhr, and Carnegie Hall.
Composed in 1798 when Beethoven was 27 years old, the Sonata No. 8 remains one of his most famous sonatas and is commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, for its tragic tone. The first movement, Grave, opens with heavy-handed chords in the low register before the first theme of rising arpeggios enters. The second movement presents a beautiful and solemn melody in the form of a rondo (a musical form with a recurring main theme). The third movement refers to the first movement’s second theme and a modified version of the second movement’s theme, but adds frequent sforzando (sudden emphasis) for forceful effect.
In contrast to Sonata No. 8, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 30, composed twenty years later, sheds all notions of the traditional sonata. The first two movements are bound together as a single unit, with the pianist holding down the pedal between them, while the third movement, also unusual in being comprised of a theme and six variations, contains most of the sonata’s duration. The first two movements exhibit lyricism and harmonic beauty. The third movement’s 16-bar theme is dignified and meditative. The third variation, allegro vivace, is virtuosic, the fourth highly contrapuntal (with multiple independent melodic lines), the fifth energetic, and the last moves from a peaceful opening through raging arpeggios to a quiet ending, as if nothing had happened.
While the title La Plus que Lente is literally translated as “the more the slow,” it is not a reference to a slow tempo, but to the style of “slow waltz” that was popular in French society. In fact, Debussy writes that the piece’s tempo is flexible, and employs ties and unusual rhythms, which makes the piece technically difficult. The composition pokes fun at the slow waltz, as if to outdo other versions, and has been transcribed for strings, orchestra, and even jazz bands.
L’Isle Joyeuse (The Island of Joy) is a reference to Cythera, a mythical Mediterranean island and birthplace of Venus, the goddess of love. The title also refers to is the Channel Island of Jersey, where Debussy went in 1904 with Emma Bardac, who later became his second wife. The pianist paints the image of the journey, with sudden dynamic changes giving light and shade, the music portraying the rise and fall of ocean swells, and then a dancing motif which moves higher and higher until one arrives at the island. The dance becomes increasingly energetic, and wild excitement and pandemonium break out. Fanfare, fortissimo, and — the right hand vivaciously leaps over the left to land on the piano’s lowest note, for a final flourish.
Chopin’s Four Ballades, composed between 1831 and 1842, are often treated as a set. Each has unique poetry and drama, though they share Romantic Period drama, emotion and a nobility of motifs. The term “ballade” carries connotations of the medieval heroic ballad, a narrative minstrel-song, and Chopin’s Ballades were said by Robert Schumann, to whom Ballade No. 2 is dedicated, to have been inspired by poems of Adam Mickiewicz, regarded as the national poet of Poland. The first Ballade has been widely used in films. The fourth is dedicated to Baroness Rothschild, who had invited Chopin to play in her Parisian residence, where she introduced him to members of the aristocracy and nobility.