Korea queues into the night for Chopin winner

Korea queues into the night for Chopin winner


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2015


korea queues 1

These were the scenes in Seoul as DG issued its debut release of Chopin winner Seong-Jin Cho.

korea queues



  • V.Lind says:

    Second prize went to a Canadian. I’m sorry to say if DG or some other respectable label releases a recording of him, those who want it (not a group likely to assault the classical best-seller list) are most likely to spend most of their time on the internet looking up some place they could buy it.

  • Milka says:

    Has nothing to do with music as it has with national identity.

    • V.Lind says:

      Oh, exactly. You see the Chinese community turn out in droves when Lang Lang or Yundi Li play, never at other times. And the Russians get out there for Triifonov, the Poles for Krystian Zimerman, etc. But Angela Hewitt did a Master class here not long ago — free and open to the public — and there were barely 30 people there. James Ehnes’ was a little better, but mostly string students — again the public barely noticed. Young Mr. Richard-Hamelin was doing a free noon-hour concert at a church the week before the Chopin comp.

      I was just envying the Koreans that there were still shops selling CDs.

      • Edward says:

        I have been following the attention surrounding the production of a CD for the winner, and I just ordered Cho Seong-Jin’s CD for my store – yes, my STORE – that still sells CDs… Sikora’s Classical Records in Vancouver, Canada. We are open for business seven days a week, and will serve any musical interests! Cho’s CD will be available in December, should you or anyone else wish to obtain a copy. We have a toll-free number for Canada and the US, and would be happy to hear from you!

    • Neven P. says:

      Milka – on Saturday night I attended the concert in which Lortie played Totentanz with the BSO at the Symphony Hall. I had a fifth row ticket, being able to see directly his hands. What an amazing artist and what a technique! His playing completely evoked the medieval dance of death the piece was inspired with and the artist’s immersion was extreme. He was breathing with the piece. The audience was ecstatic at the end and I am so glad I had the privilege of hearing him.

      This Saturday I will attend the performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, by the young German artist Martin Helmchen and Christoph von Dohnanyi. I hope you have favorable opinion of these two, also.

      • Milka says:

        Glad you liked Lortie -he is that truly rare bird .Another should he come you way is Piotr Anderszewski . Helmchen was brought to my attention some years ago , I thought
        him then an excellent pianist just lacking the powers of persuasion that Lortie and Anderszewski have in abundance. but that was some time ago , let’s hope he gives a great interpretation.Be interested in how it goes .

    • Tendonitis says:

      Ok Milka, I’ll give you that.
      Yes, the Koreans tend to support and proud of their own, a bit more than most other ethnic groups. There are foundations and groups that exist just to help young Koreans jumpstart their careers.
      I would compare them to Jewish/Israeli networks of the past.
      I hope the kid does well. He has a promising start. I still haven’t had a chance to hear him play yet but I assume he is excellent.

    • someone says:

      Wow! Milka, Bravo!

      ” Has nothing to do with music as it has with national identity. ” ?

      Is that why 3 of UK critics have just given Seong-Jin Cho these reviews after his recent performances with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy in Birmingham and London?




      How do you think of that?
      They are not Korean and for them, I think, it has nothing to do with national identity but it has with music.

      One of them didn’t even know Seong-Jin Cho’s name but as soon as he started playing, he was totally m​esmerized and ‘stopped analysing, closed his eyes and lost himself completely in the sheer musicality of the moment’ as he said in his review.

      I’m sure how much you know about Korea and Koreans.
      At least since 1980s or before, most of Korean kids have been taking piano lessons.
      If someone didn’t have it, people often thought it was quite strange and abnormal.

      Yes, there are people who haven’t but they would learn other instruments later on.
      If someone has never learnt any musical instruments at all, it could have been quite embarrassing as it was an extremely normal and regular part of children’s education in Korea.
      It was just like learning our own mother tongue.

      When I was at primary school, I used to go to a piano hagwon(small private educational institute that is every where in Korea) 5 days a week and had to practise at least an hour a day there.
      I had a piano at home like many of my friends then.

      I’m not talking about people living in some richest parts of Korea and nowadays, even children living in the so-called poorest areas, they learn various instruments such as piano, violin, cello, flute, oboe, clarinet, drums, etc. really various instruments.
      I envy them that they have even more choices than I used to have.

      I’ve always thought it definitely has become soil for the things happend before, during and after the competition.
      It didin’t happen overnight.

      Actually, lots of foreign musicians told that they were really surprised when they saw a lot of young people in their concerts in Korea.

      Music schools (called hagwon) are everywhere in Korea, next to our houses and they also can learn it taking afterschool programme in school or other education centres.

      Nowadays, even pensioners’ kids, they are very short on money though, take piano lessons as many of local governments pay the fees.
      Taking piano lessons, more precisely, various music lessons is not optional, it’s kind of compulsory in Korea.

      Do we think or expect music would help kids become better people or do we have any other ambitious goals?

      It could be or not, it could work or not.
      But most importantly we learn it because we like and want it.

      I often see that some people wrote comments on YouTube when they saw someone like Korean musical prodigies that their parnets must have pushed them a lot giving lots of pressure and made them practise for 8 hours a day, poor kids!.

      There could have been that kind of parents or not.
      But most of world famous Korean musicians like kyung-wha Chung, Myung-whun Chung , Sarah Chang(Korean American), Han-na Chang didn’t have that types of parents and so has Seong-Jin.

      He started learning the piano and violin as a hobby like other average kids but soon after he showed a brilliant talent so he found a better teacher and started playing the piano with a more serious attitude.

      He had already won numerous national and international competitions since he was very young before the Chopin, but his parents would urge him to go outside to play with other children rather than practising the piano.

      Kpop idols are quite famous some parts of the world and lots of Korean youngsters are crazy about them as well, however learning classical and traditional musical instruments is still an integral part of our lives.

      I, myself, have learnt various instruments so far, piano, violin, guitar, gayagum, jangoo, etc. and thankfully, my parents have never ever given any pressure on this.

      I’ve got hundreds of classical music LPs from my perants and CDs bought by myself.
      It’s nothing in comparison to those who have thousands.

      Buying a CD in a shop is no longer normal in Korea as well and that shop is quite special, it’s rather a cultural place.
      I wasn’t there but I ordered Seong-jin’s CD on the internet rather than downloading it because I wanted to have it in my hands.
      I’ve been listening to it evey single day now.

      I’ve been away from classical music for quite a long while for some reason.
      I was kind of sick of some things of or around it but he got me back.
      I’m into music again because of him.

      Oh, please! No nationalism, please.
      We’ve already got other famous and great muscians from Korea but no one has ever made me this much excited and inspired.

      I love his piano sound that is lucid and shimmering as Finalcial Times’s critic, Richard Fairman described and the various colours and tones that create so many different shades and nuance of music, not only bold rainbow colours.

      I love his exquisite touch that doesn’t make the sound of ‘hard, diamond-cut edge’ but it creates the little reverberations that give space for poetry.
      For me, those things are much more appealing than a heroic approach or so-called charisma.

      He may not be as mature as Pollini, Argerich and Zimerman yet though some English and French critics have already mentioned surprising maturity in his music, but why would I ask more from the 21-year old young pianist?
      I want to hear what the young, 21-year old pianist thinks and feels.

      He adores and admires those great muscians.
      A few days ago, he went to Marta Argerich’s concert and went to backstage to see her.
      He said in an interview that he wanted to meet and have a talk with her after the competition but couldn’t as they were both too busy so he went to see her again.
      He talked with her and took photos like a normal young boy.
      I’m just happy with it and I don’t expect anything more or less from him.

      We can just leave a space for each other’s tastes.
      Why can’t we just enjoy music without insulting others?
      Wasn’t it enough during the actual competition period?

      You can have different opinions on a performer and an event but never try to distort the essential truth.

      • Milka says:

        An interesting read – wandering off in all directions bolstering my initial observation
        which was just that , an observation . Reading “Someone ” ,you come away imaging
        Korea one vast symphony orchestra , Someone should if not already doing so write
        for the Korean chamber of commerce.

        • someone says:

          Remember that I and many of them have bought Seong-Jin’s CD because

          1. We love music
          2. We play music
          3. We love his playing

          and I’ve briefly explained why and how, not only for you but for others who read my post.

          Before something to do with national identity or nationalism, there has always been music first.

          • Milka says:

            If it were music first then the Koreans would be lined up all night to buy Chopin ,Bach etc.
            recordings by Anderszewski , Hamelin , La Plante , Lortie, etc.
            Paying extra to hear a Chopin mazurka in a supermarket while smelling a dead fish ain’t
            my idea of a music lover , or not what I believe Chopin had in his mind for his music . Must be an awfully slow elevator if it is timed to the Beethoven 9th .

          • someone says:

            Reply to Milka,

            Firstly, no one queued into the night.
            The shop opened 9am and some people arrived there around 7am.
            Around 9am, there were about 100 people.

            I think something wrong with the title, however, what would have been wrong if someone had queued into the night?

            People queue into the night for compurter games or mobile phones, then why shouldn’t they queue for different items like CDs?

            Please do not force anyone to like anything.
            I’ve never told you to like him or his music.

            I said we should’ve left a space for different tastes.
            Respect that.

    • Salieri says:

      From what I sense from your posts, you’re either jealous of others’ talent because you could never make it in the real musical world, or you’re just too ignorant about other cultures. Try to travel outside and open up your eyes. It’s really a big world out there.

  • debussyste says:

    I don’t know if this could happen in Europe for a classical pianist ! They have a passion for european music the europeans have lost. Here, all is for pop music, hollywood “stars” soon forgotten, james Bond, star wars . That’s what “culture” means today ! You just have to read the “culture” pages in the newspaper.

    • V.Lind says:

      America embraced the concept of “dumbing down” with an enthusiasm that was as nauseating as it was dismaying. But it spread, along with the very dumbed-down product that passes for culture there and has brainwashed so much of the world. It is interesting that the Asians have embraced classical music with almost the same sort of fervour, at least in China and Korea.

      • Herbert Pauls says:

        Japan too, where it all started – dating back to Japan opening up to the West in the 1870s.
        The first ever recording of Mahler’s Fourth was from Japan in the 1930s. Also in the 1930s, many of the original subscribers to the large-scale HMV “society” recording project on 78s (Beethoven’s 32 Sonatas, etc) were from Japan. In the 1980s, all of Gould’s recordings were out in a Japanese complete edition before Sony/Columbia got around to them in Europe or North America.

      • Milka says:

        Before knocking “America ” by which I take it you mean USA ,check your own back yard of dumbing down –Bocelli , Garrett , Rieu not to mention the past 3 dreadful tenors etc .
        As for China & Korea loving and understanding western so called classical, spare me .

        Did you ever hear the dreadful Butterfly Lovers violin concerto which is a great Asian favorite ? Enough said ………..

    • Milka says:


  • 110 says:

    When you fly with Korean Air at the arrival you hear Bach,at the E mart ( supermarket) you listen to Chopin and in my building I wait for the elevator and listen to Beethoven 9 th.Here is the results!

    • Milka says:

      How deplorable to use creative work by others as background wallpaper music
      Who in their right mind wants to hear the 9th .in a f…..g elevator ? While looking at a dead fish in a supermarket you are soothed by Chopin and poor Bach fighting to
      be heard over arrival and departures announcements by Korean Air .Just another
      observation …………

      • someone says:

        I’m not sure what’s been happening in your country, but in Korea, they mostly have to pay a different and much larger amount of money if they want to play music for commercial use, for example, playing in supermarkets, department stores, cafes and public places.

        How deplorable that you are saying again with no knowledge at all !

  • 110 says:

    Seoul art center is hosting concerts ,opera ,ballet
    around 200 concerts a month.
    People love classical music and artists of great reputation come to play here.Radu Lupu,Misha Maisky,etc.
    Just have a look and be amazed.