Some Koreans who sing (a Slippedisc masterclass for Pinchas Zukerman)

Some Koreans who sing (a Slippedisc masterclass for Pinchas Zukerman)


norman lebrecht

June 29, 2021

Further to Pinchas Zukerman’s pejorative comments, meet Hera Hyesang Park, who’s about to sing Despina in Cosi at Glyndebourne.

And this is Gihoon Kim who just won BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

Not to mention Sumi Jo.

There’s plenty of Seoul in that singing.



  • justin says:

    “There’s plenty of Seoul in that singing.”

    I don’t think you’re helping.

  • Music Lover says:

    This is just a few examples, check to see how many talented Korean singers in Opera companies and Radio Chorus in only in Germany.

  • MusicBear88 says:

    Hei-Kyung Hong, Jongmin Park, Sumi Jo, Kwangchul Youn. Taro Ichihara, Mitsuko Shirai, Mihoko Fujimura, Yoko Watanabe. Hui He, Zhang Liping, Guanqun Yu, Shenyang.

    Twelve singers, 729 performances at the MET and countless others all over the world. (Mitsuko Shirai has only rarely done staged opera, focusing on oratorio and song instead). The first four are Korean, the second four are Japanese, and the third four are Chinese, and all have reached the highest level of European classical singing.

  • M.Arnold says:

    Taro Ichihara! I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to him. I heard him w/ Met in Central Park in Ballo in late 70’s(?) with Hampson and liked him so I got a ticket to hear him do it in the house. Unfortunately, he cancelled. He’s Japanese.

  • alfred says:

    Can I just point out that Gihoon Kim sang a Korean art song in the final of the Cardiff song prize. After a lifetime knowing the song repertoire of many countries – UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Japan, etc. – this was a refreshing addition, which I greatly enjoyed. It shows that there are still discoveries to be made (for me, at least). I hope that artists like Gihoon Kim and others might make their national repertoire better known in recital and, if record companies are adventurous enough, on recordings too.

  • Peter says:

    Everybody understands that this in not what Mr. Zukerman meant. Does a country have a tradition for singing? It means: Are there a lot of choirs, do kids sing in kindergarden, school, are there folk tunes that everybody knows. If the answer is no, then the phrase “In Korea, they don’t sing” correct.

    Mr. Zukerman certainly was a bit clumsy, but you, Mr. Lebrect, make the world an stupid place, which is so much worse.

    • Observer says:

      Perhaps you should check your grammar before calling someone stupid, stupid.

      • Peter says:

        Sir. Please show me where I called somebody stupid? (I would consider not being able to read simple sentences much worse than a grammar mistake or two.)

      • Ashu says:

        [Perhaps you should check your grammar before calling someone stupid, stupid.]

        Stupid is someone who considers mastery of standard grammar to be an indicator of intelligence, particularly on a website where many are not native speakers. Are you never guilty of a misplaced phoneme while using your second languages – if you have any?

    • James says:

      But the answer to all of your rhetorical questions is a resounding YES. Koreans of all stripes and ages SING – A LOT. Koreans have a love of song, from traditional and folk to pop to rock, and yes, they have a century-long appreciation for Western sacred music and the choral arts. Anyone who meets a person of Korean heritage will quickly learn that music is integral to their being. It is very much a part of their history, and every child’s education. It’s a real shame, because what’s apparent is that despite the dozens if not hundreds of Asian and Asian American musicians Zukerman has doubtless encountered/performed, it’s evident he hasn’t had so much as a conversation with a single one of them! Because that is all that it would take for him to quickly realize how patently absurd his assertion is that “they don’t sing.” Please know your professional colleagues, many of whom are excellent and passionate about their art.

    • Saxon says:

      Peter says: “Everybody understands that this in not what Mr. Zukerman meant.”

      Err. Most people, reasonably, suppose that Mr Zukerman said what he meant and meant what he said. We all know EXACTLY what Mr Zukerman said and EXACTLY what he meant. And we don’t like it.

    • po says:

      “Everybody understands that this in not what Mr. Zukerman meant. ”
      When he said ‘it’s not in their DNA’, he meant exactly what he said, and sensible people knew immediately what he meant. Stop defending undefendable.

  • Bone says:

    Between NL and the commenters falling all over each other to pander to the greatly offended Asian population today, I think we can safely assume Zukerman is properly chastised and may need to enter witness protection.

    Ready for the next round of virtue signaling! Surely, someone has to be offended out there by something….

    • Lev Roz says:

      All of us are different. This notion is impossible to comprehend in a politically correct America. And everybody regardless of one’s status will be destroyed if says otherwise. Complete idiotism, double standard and lies dominate the modern society.

  • BRUCEB says:

    His children are both singers. *facepalm*

  • BRUCEB says:

    Don’t forget the perennially delightful Hei-Kyung Hong:

  • Michael B says:

    The Korean Hellen Kwan is a coloratura soprano who recorded an excellent Queen of the Night in the Naxos “Magic Flute” and also recorded the role of the Nightingale in the Braunfels “Die Vögel” for Decca.

  • Fan says:

    And then there is the great Kimchilia Bartoli singing “Agitata da due venti”

  • Nathaniel Rosen says:

    I believe the kind of singing that Zukerman was referring to is the kind that fiddle teachers ask their students to do in order that they may teach themselves how to phrase a certain passage. In order to do so publicly it is necessary to suspend inhibitions which may be culturally ingrained.

    • Gerry Feinsteen says:

      And also the bel canto style. That is how I understood what was behind his point, as regrettably as he worded it.

      Having lived in Japan for nearly a decade in the ‘80s when CDs were coming along, I was exposed to a wealth of music, not only exclusive Western classical recordings but also Japanese pop and Japanese opera. I think it’s fair to say “bel canto” style—which was so influential in later 19th century instrumental performance practice (was it not?)— is not particularly similar to music in Kabuki or Noh, a kind of native Japanese opera, which has been around for throughout the same centuries. Certainly it can be learned by anyone. Further, the beauty of any mother’s hum to a baby shall be enough evidence that a beautiful singing voice is always within reach, on Earth or Mars…

      On a side note,
      I can’t help but genuinely wonder about Puccini and his operas Turandot and Madame Butterfly. I’m not completely privy to the current state of the code of wokeness, but it seems a matter of time before this comes up.

      I’m just an amateur pianist with an attaché case full of paper and Mars 780 pencils, what do I know…

    • Will says:

      Ding ding.. we have a winner.

  • B Min says:

    Zuckerman probably was caught in his world of violin playing and lost the origin of all that music. I would rather point to the Korean labor songs sung when people of the village put their forces together for a common cause. Nothing peculiar to Koreans, I guess, because that would be true to any ethnics. Wouldn’t those songs that couple to the muscles of our body be the source of all music? Poor Zuckerman… why forget our elementary existence and become so isolated in his small world of “violin singing”?

  • Raymond Houser says:

    I would also add Sunhae Im to this list. Here is a selection.