32 Beethoven sonatas ― pinnacle of piano music
Kim Sun-wook to play complete cycle
By Do Je-hae
Pianist Kim Sun-wook will launch a two-year recital series next month to perform Beethoven’s 32 sonatas, considered by some music scholars as one of the most monumental piano repertoires.
Still a student in his early 20s, currently training at the Royal Academy of Music in London, it’s too early to tell what his focus will be in the years ahead.
But so far, it seems he is serious about keeping Beethoven at the center of his repertoire and musical development. The 23-year-old previously completed a cycle of the five Beethoven concertos in 2009 in Korea.
Kim will play the Beethoven sonatas in chronological order. He will take on the earlier sonatas (Nos. 1 through 16) this year. The first recital will take place at the LG Arts Center on March 29.
“This project will guide the audience to explore the life and works of one of the most significant composers in the history of Western classical music,” Chelsea Oh, LG Arts Center PR manager, said.
Beethoven wrote 32 piano sonatas between 1795 and 1822. Although originally not intended to be a meaningful whole, they form one of the most important collections of works for the piano, along with Bach’s collection of “Well-Tempered Clavier.”
Full cycles of the sonatas are few and far between. In embarking on the taxing program, Kim is taking after piano virtuosos like Daniel Barenboim, who completed a full recording and performing cycle in his teens.
The most respected pianists of our time, including Alfred Brendel and Maurizio Pollini, have played all the sonatas onstage and completed a full recording cycle. The first to make a complete recording was Artur Schnabel in 1927.
Kim is one of the leading Korean pianists of his generation since winning the prestigious Leeds competition in 2006, becoming its first-ever Asian winner.
The London-based pianist sets himself apart from other Korean pianists of similar status like Son Yeol-eum, by focusing on Austro-German composers and studying conducting at the same time.
In the past few years, he has been mentored by Beethoven specialists like piano virtuoso Andras Schiff.
Kim and Schiff made a video recording of a master class for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, a revolutionary piece where the piano starts before the orchestra. In most concertos, orchestras start by playing the first main theme.
Schiff has helped Kim learn Beethoven concertos. Kim will perform the Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in D minor with the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam in Seoul this month under the baton of Chung Myung-whun.
Highlights of Kim’s forthcoming projects include return engagements with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Helsinki Radio Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Halle Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic, as well as subscription debuts with the Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and NHK Symphony Orchestra.
For more information on the Beethoven sonata cycle, call 02-2005-0114 or visit www.lgart.com. Tickets range from 30,000 to 70,000 won.