Pianist Cho Seong-jin reflects on wandering lifestyle in new album
The Korea Times
After playing Chopin, Debussy and Mozart on recent albums, his new disc features Schubert, Berg and Liszt. “The Wanderer” will be released May 8, and he is planning to hold a solo recital in Korea in July.
In a written interview with Korean reporters, he shared his thoughts on the album, his career and personal life. As the winner of the renowned competition and currently one of the most successful pianists, he has had a hectic schedule holding recitals and practices.
Regarding the name of the album, he said he felt lost for years after he started living overseas, but ended up finding himself at home wherever he stays.
“After moving to Paris in 2012 to study piano, I found it difficult to feel at home anywhere for several years… But after the Chopin Competition and moving to Berlin, I realized that I stay in Berlin for about four months per year which is not a long time. Moving around to play piano is my job. And then I found out staying at home in Berlin and hotels are both comfortable. So I concluded that any place I stay is home to me,” Cho said.
With days spent traveling and working all over the world as a sort of wanderer himself, he said he decided to play Schubert’s “Wanderer Fantasy” as artists alive when the music was written share similarities with artists of today in terms of their constant traveling.
“For those artists, including Schubert and Liszt who lived in the Romantic era, it appears that the term wander is extremely important. Of course, Liszt, for example, lived here and there and traveled a lot even though he ended up living in one place in the twilight of his life. And artists such as pianists and musicians also travel a lot. So, I decided to play this music on my album as they have shared such common characteristics throughout time.”
He said he tried hard to make “Wanderer Fantasy,” which he found the most technically difficult Schubert music he has ever played, sound beautifully simple and not difficult and at the same time play it naturally to show his unique piano style.
“The most difficult part of the music is that it is technically difficult to play. But it is also difficult to hide that difficulty. I think it is important to play it without making people find it difficult to listen to and let them think it is beautiful, dramatic and poetic…. It has become more comfortable with me to play it out on various stages since 2018. I tried hard to express imagination and versatile characters in each chapter in the music.”
“I think the most unique way to play is to play as you think. All people’s voice sounds different. Being natural is the best way to show your uniqueness rather than thinking I should play it differently.”
Regarding the popularity of classical music, he stressed that “It is difficult for classical music to be popular, especially compared to K-pop. But as a classical musician, I would be happy if more people come to recitals and listen to classical music…. [Rather than popularizing classical music,] audiences can be classical by enjoying the classical music they want.”
The spread of the coronavirus gave him a rare opportunity to rest up and take a break from having physical recitals. He released a livestreamed video online recently that showed him playing a piano at home to mark World Piano Day on March 28.
“Matthias Goerne gave me the idea to play piano online…. Musicians are workaholics, and I’m no exception. I felt pressured to do something [and decided to hold the online concert]… It was the first time for me to play without an audience. It felt weird at first, but I felt energy later like I am in the concert hall.”
In this time of a global pandemic, he said he “realized again that music is necessary for us. Not only classic music, you listen to music in our lives when you have nothing to do, need some consolation and enjoy something.… The current situation made me more think about the importance of music. And I found out the importance of ordinary things like going to the restaurant with your friends.”
He hinted at the possibility he will include Chopin’s compositions in his next album while hoping he could build good relationships with orchestras and musicians to continue his successful career. In the long term, he hoped he could stay healthy and continue to play piano.
“I hope not to be dead and to stay alive healthily. I want to continue to play piano. I think many things aren’t going as you wish…. I need luck and am trying hard to improve the situation… We are now in a difficult and challenging time, but I believe we can overcome this situation very soon.”