The 52nd HK Arts Festival .Feature

The Transcendent Magic of Pianist Minsoo Sohn

Text / KaJeng Wong

Pianist Minsoo Sohn's willful power and conviction can be felt in his many gigantic ventures including the complete sonatas of Beethoven, the Goldberg Variations by Bach and, most recently, the complete Transcendental Études by Franz Liszt.

Sohn, a disciple of the American giant Russell Sherman, first found his passion for Liszt's work when he accompanied the master playing through the complete etudes three times without any breaks in New York—and the recording of the performance has been acclaimed as "magical, ineffable and transcendental".

To Sohn, poetic ideas are at the centre of these pieces, while the virtuosic elements are simply layers to orchestrate the poetic content. "Only through these approaches can extraordinary levels of power be achieved," Sohn tells FestMag. "One must never start with solving the technical challenges. Instead read as many poems [as you can], and find and designate each etude with what resonates with you the most."

Sohn, recently hired as a piano professor at the prestigious New England Conservatory, became highly sought-after when his superstar disciple, Yunchan Lim, captured the world's attention by winning the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2022. When asked about his teaching process with Lim, Sohn replies that most of his teaching starts with the question: "Is this what you really want?" Sohn merely "tries to listen carefully to what their hearts wish to speak, and filter all unnecessary expressions out, letting the students find their own voice".

Sohn's own artistic voice will be heard at the upcoming HKAF where he will appear in two programmes: an all-Liszt recital which will include the Transcendental Études, and an evening of symphonic and concerto music from such masters as Ye Xiaogang, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, with the Hankyung arte Philharmonic and conductor Wilson Ng.

But whatever challenge he takes on, Sohn says he lives by Sherman's motto: "To play the piano is to search infinitely… One has to follow, represent and be the composer."

Minsoo Sohn Piano Recital

Date: 15 Mar 2024

Venue: Concert Hall, HKAPA

Details: https://www.hk.artsfestival.org/en/programme/Minsoo_Sohn_Piano_Recital?