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Bringing a new feeling to Beethoven

Feb 22,2017





Pianist Sunwook Kim, 28, recently released an album through German label Accentus, featuring Ludwig van Beethoven’s three most well-known piano sonatas “Pathetique” (No. 8), “Moonlight Sonata” (No. 14), and “Appassionata” (No. 23). To celebrate the international release, he’ll be holding a recital on March 18 at the Lotte Concert Hall, performing all three pieces in the album.

The music is familiar, even to a casual listener. But Kim says “depending on who the translator is, a classical novel can have a different feeling to it.”

“Equally, there are dozens of Beethoven piano sonatas in stock at a record shop. But depending on who plays it, it can sound totally different,” he explained during a press conference on Tuesday at the Kumho Art Hall in central Seoul. The latest album was recorded last August at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin.

Kim is an ardent researcher of Beethoven. He has released four albums that include five of Beethoven’s piano sonatas.

“I’m going to take it slowly, but I’ll continue to release all of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas,” Kim said, showing his affection for Beethoven’s music. “I did five so there are 27 left.”

However, the 28-year-old pianist doesn’t want to be referred to as a “Beethoven specialist.”

“I actually play other works as well,” he said. “I recently began studying a lot about Claude Debussy and I also love playing Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s music.”

Kim mentioned that there’s no one who can play Chin’s piano concerto better than himself.

“Every time there’s a recital or a concert overseas, I try to include Chin’s piano concert in my repertoire,” said Kim. “I did the first recording with Chin so I can proudly say that I’m an expert.”

So far, Kim has been referred to as a “prodigy” since he became the youngest winner of the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition in 2006. He’s built a successful career over the past 11 years, and now his fans call him “a young virtuoso.”

But this new title, according to Kim, is “embarrassing” and expressed that he wants to be a “virtuoso” that people still want to hear his music when he’s “60, 70 or even 90.”

Kim’s concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets range from 30,000 won ($26) to 90,000 won.

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]