Who’s the world’s fastest selling classical pianist?

Who’s the world’s fastest selling classical pianist?


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2015

He has shifted 65,000 copies of his DG debut in the first two weeks of release and is presently ahead of Andrea Bocelli in the US sales charts.

The Chopin competition winner Seong-Jin Cho is sweeping all before him.

His album has yet to be released in Japan, where he won the Hamamatsu competition, or in France, where he lives.

korea queues 1


  • Alvaro says:

    The only way for the classical sub-sub-sub-sub-sub segment of the industry is to adopt the same strategy as the mainstream: One day wonders, cash fast, then move on.

    Lets see if in 2 years you remember his name.

    • Salieri says:

      LOL. Jealousy sucks.
      Like Cho said, winning the Chopin Competition is not the end, but the beginning.

      • Alvaro says:

        RAFAL Blechasz (or however you write his name) 3 cd’s and gone.

        Ingolf Wunder – 2 cd’s and gone.


        Not an opinion: facts.

        • Salieri says:

          People like Zimerman and Algerich are still around.

        • someone says:

          Maurizio Pollini, not gone.
          Martha Argerich, not gone.
          Krystian Zimerman, not gone.

          Should I name more?

          Winning the Chopin competition or any competitions doesn’t guarantee future success.

          Seong-Jin knows very well about it indeed.
          He said that he didn’t like playing in competitions, but needed it to get more chances to play more on stage.
          That’s part of the reality of the classical music world.

          Only a few, who have been lucky enough, could have a successful career without winning major competitions, however this doesn’t guarantee future success either.
          Nothing guarantees anything.

          Oh, should I not compare Cho with those legendary pianists with exceptional talent?

          OK, let me introduce what one of those pianists as well as previous winners of the Chopin competition has said about him.

          As soon as Cho’s concerto performance in the Chopin’s final ended, Maestro Krystian Zimerman texted to Kyung-Wha Chung and asked who he was.
          He said “This is Gold.” and highly praised that he’d never seen anyone played that much great in the final of the Chopin competition.

          ( Please note that I’ve read articles mentioning what Kyung-Wha Chung said. Except “This is gold”, I translated Korean text into English on my own so it could be a little different from what Mr Zimerman originally said.
          However, it wouldn’t change the essence of his words. )

          Ms Chung said ” Musicians’ ears open more as they get older. No one beats Zimerman’s ability in hearing piano playing. Zimerman said Seong-Jin’s music was mature and he has a good technique so he would love to introduce him to a recording label right away. ”


          A few years ago when he was 17, Seong-Jin won the third prize at the Tchaikovsky competition and there is a little story behind it.

          In 2011, Maestro Vallery Gergiev got to hear Seong-Jin’s performance in Tokyo and was very surprised so he urged him to enter the Tchaikovsky competition but he was only 17 then.

          At the time, the Tchaikovsky competition allowed who were 18 years old or older only and the entry was already closed, but Mr Gergiev called the office and lowered the age limit to 16.
          He told them that music was important, not the age.
          Then Seong-Jin could enter the competition and won the third.


          Maestro Lorin Maazel went to a not musical event held in Washington in 2009 and by chance, got to see Seong-Jin play there and was very impressed.
          He then invited Cho to his Castleton festival.
          In 2013, after the performance with Seong-Jin, Mr Maazel left a message on his homepage (www.maestromaazel.com)

          The homepage seems to be closed now, but you can see part of it at the address below.


          ” The age difference between the piano soloist…Seong-Jin Cho—and the conductor (me) at tonight’s concert in Seoul is 65 years. At this juncture in my life, passing on what little I’ve learned to the young artist I see as an obligation. Beethoven’s Fourth piano concerto emerged unscathed as Seong-Jin, the Munich Phil and I made music together. After intermission, the monster again: Stravins… ”

          After the performance, he talked with Seong-Iin and gave an advice.
          According to Paul Müller, the executive Director of the Munich Philharmonic, it was unusual and was the first time to have a talk like that with a young musician since Mr Maazel was appointed to the Munich Philharmonic’a chief conductor.


          Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, for the first time, found Cho in April, 2009, when Cho was in his third year in middle school, at an event where he played Chopin.
          Mr Chung right away made schedule to play with him and said with huge excitement that he found a child with an amazing sound.


          Cho played the Chopin concerto arranged by Mikhail Pletnev and Grieg’s piano concerto with him.
          If anyone is interested, you may be able to hear them on YouTube.

          Well, it’s just some of Cho’s quite recent activities before the Chopin, not only in Korea, but in other parts of the world.
          I can’t write everything because it’s not that I’m trying to write his biography here.

          At first, I wasn’t thinking of writing even these things, what other great artists talked about him and what they saw in Seong-Jin because I thought it was enough for him to be in stories related the Chopin competition and everyone can hear his performances on YouTube.
          However, I thought why not to share their opinions.

          Please, don’t get me wrong.
          It’s not that I’m trying to force anyone to take mine or the Maestros’ thoughts on Seong-Jin.
          I don’t think someone like Alvaro and Milka would change their thoughts about him even if Horowitz praised his playing.
          I will totally respect if someone has a different opinion, but there could be people who may be interested to know what other professional musicians said.

          Nothing can guarantee anything, but Seong-Jin has been doing fine.
          As we can see, it doesn’t just depend on luck.
          Without his talent and efforts, even luck wouldn’t be able to work.

          After another competition before the Chopin, Seong-Jin threw away his mobile phone and stopped all kinds of sns to concentrate on music more.
          However, he didn’t spend his time only practising the piano.
          He said he usually practised for about 3-4 hours a day, and for the Chopin competition, 5 hours a day for about 9 months.
          In his spare time, he did other things such as researching, reading books, visiting museums, galleries to see paintings and going to restaurants and bakeries for delicious food and cake which were some of his favourite hobbies.

          One thing is sure that whatever he did, he did with full concentration.
          According to one of his Korean teachers, when he was much younger, during piano practising, he often didn’t even realise even if somebody was calling him.

          You can see what he will be doing in 2 years time.
          I’m expecting a lot too, but something totally different from what you seem to want to happen.
          I was so surprised by the progress he made during the 9 months, in particular, by the development in his piano sounds.

          I have known of him since the time I don’t even remember, however, wasn’t a huge fan as I’d been away from classical music, but after seeing the previous competition, the result made me keep an eye on him.

          To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the result, but I really think it became one of the great motivations that helped Cho win the Chopin.
          Sometimes, a bad thing turns into blessings.

          I hope and am sure that Seong-Jin will make all the curses by you and some others turn into blessings again.

          And I’m truly wishing all the musicians who were in the competition a great future success, regardless of the result.
          There’ll be enough rooms for those who deserve.

        • majraj says:

          i have got many more than 3 cds of Blechacz

    • Salieri says:

      Oh, and BTW, you know that Cho gets not even a dime from this particular CD sales.

  • Milka says:

    That most of the sales are to compatriots should be noted.

  • someone says:

    It’s really funny to read some comments here.

    Alvaro and Milka,

    ” Lets see if in 2 years you remember his name. ” ?
    ” That most of the sales are to compatriots should be noted. ” ?

    This kind of behavior in the classical music world is one of things that really made me sick.

    Please do buy your compatriots’ CDs as many as you can and save the classical music world of your countries and help your compatriot musicians rather than cursing innocent people.

    What’s wrong with Koreans buying a CD of a brilliant Korean artist.
    Have we, Koreans, bought it only to make Seong-Jin Cho stand out on the DG’s website or because of nationalism?

    If anyone thinks like that, please do read my previous posting.


    And please read what British and French critics have said about his recent performances in Birmingham, London and Paris.






    Here is a review on his first CD by Presto Classical.


    What on earth is going on here?
    Some people seem to be still in competition with their jealousy.

    You can have different opinions and different tastes as others can have them,
    but why do you have to curse people who have done nothing wrong?

    Does that make you happier or do you think it would help the artists whom you support shine brighter?

    Never, it will never do that.

    Presenting different ideas on an artist is different from cursing.

    Even if someone becomes a great artist in the future, it doesn’t mean the rest will die.
    There’ll still be enough rooms for other artists if you leave a space for it.

    • lo yeeOn says:

      One can go to Youtube and listen to Cho’s performance of the Chopin e minor concerto, as well as those of other finalists at this year’s competition. I just went there and listened to Cho play the last 50 measures of the 1st movement once more. And I’m more convinced than ever that Cho simply didn’t do justice to the music. One can listen to Dmitry Shishkin’s version and hear the difference. In Shishkin, we can hear both majesty and playfulness in exactly those last 50 measures – the kind of percussive pianistic writing quite often found in the composer’s Etudes. Cho apparently did not grasp the significance of these fine points and took a tempo that was too fast. For most the 1st movement, Cho’s playing sounds busy and lacks a sense of stateliness. Shishkin took a slower tempo and much more pleasing music comes through. But this is just one piece of music. I am not making any prediction about anybody’s future. In particular, anyone can continue to learn and improve.

      • someone says:

        I totally respect your opinion and your taste, but I just don’t agree with you.
        You have a right to say and I’m happy to read it.

      • Dooly Sato says:

        OMG for you to criticize Cho did not simply do the justice to the Chopin music is as ridiculous as PE’s 1 score given to his final concerto and other his lowly criminal scores to Cho. FYI, for you to even compare with Shishkin is more ludicrous. Shishkin is a good pianist, but there’s a reason why he did not make it to the top 3 in the 2015 Tchaikovsky Competition and the 2014 Rubinstein Competition. He was lucky enough to make it into the top 10 finalists and later won the 6th place. Just admit you’re not into Cho’s musical style. Don’t give that BS about Cho not doing justice to the Chopin music. I’m sure he knows more about the Chopin and his music than you’d ever know. BTW, my friend and the people who attended the Gala concerts, where the top 6 finalists performed in Seoul, said the same themed reviews. They all said why Cho had won over the rest. His dynamic power, the clarity of sound and other aspects in music were definitely the sound of Winner.