International violinist, 31, died of heart attack

International violinist, 31, died of heart attack


norman lebrecht

October 13, 2016

Results have been published of the autopsy into the death of Kwon Hyuk-joo, who was found unconscious in the back of a taxi-cab in Busan yesterday.

Kwon Hyuk-joo, winner of the 2004 Nielsen competition and a graduate of the Moscow Central Music School, had called the taxi to take him back to his hotel after drinking with friends the night before a concert.

The autopsy found that he died of sudden cardiac arrest. He was carrying pills for a suspected heart condition.
A friend said: ‘He had symptoms of arrhythmia but I assume his health has deteriorated recently due to fatigue from a heavy schedule.’

He was a popular performer in South Korea and Vietnam, appeared with Ida Haendel in Keshet Eilon and made several tours of Europe, recording Ravel and Schumann for Universal’s Korean offshoot.

Tragic loss.



  • Andrew says:

    Dear Norman,

    I must take issues with the way the post and its title has been worded. It gives an impression that he drank himself to death (“heart attack after a drinks party”), although the alcohol is likely not the primary reason for his cardiac arrest. Rather, as you quote in the body too, it was due to his heavy schedule; he had just completed a surgery on his right arm 2 weeks ago, and though the recommended rehabilitation time for such surgery is a month, he went ahead with his concert schedule for his love of music. But the way you word his drinking in the post, (“drinking with friends the night before a concert”) gives an impression that he was somehow an irresposible musician who decided to have a big party before he was due to play. He was a hard worker and a musician known for his obsessive dedication to practicing, and the friend who he spent the night with said that they only shared 2-3 sakes, according to a Korean media. I hope that you reconsider the wording of this post out of the respect for Kwon, his students, friends, and family.



  • John Gingrich says:

    I’m not objective here, as I do have a position with the PyeongChang Music Festival where Hyuk Joo was an artist in chamber and orchestral work. I am still in shock and know nothing of circumstances in Busan, but join earlier commenters in expressing my concern that he be remembered appropriately, as my experience with this remarkable young musician was exactly the opposite of the impression in the headline. He was quiet and diligent and definitely not a party animal.

  • Adagio says:

    I think this post is a bit nonsense as he only drank two cups of whiskey . Furthermore he was famous for meticulous preparation before the concert. Don’t make any rumor on him. He was a very hardworking and sincere musician. He deserves any respect what he has done until today for music.

    • Rich Patina says:

      “Two cups of whiskey?” That would amount to 16 ounces and that much alcohol would give anyone a heart attack!

      • Max Grimm says:

        You are taking things rather literally, being obtuse or trying to be funny. To make it abundantly clear, the two “cups” Hyuk-Joo consumed weren’t filled to the brim but contained 2-3cL (0.67-1.01 ounces).

      • John Christal says:

        Rubbish. I’ve drank a litre before

  • Adagio says:

    How can you guys call two cups of Sake as a drink pary? oh, you edited but I have heart broken.

  • Steve Yusko says:

    The loss of a genuine creative spirit, especially before their time, is always sad and tragic…