Yekwon Sunwoo went to Fort Worth at the end of May, and in June returned from the Van Cliburn Competition with a gold medal, and the kind of boost to his career that many dream of. At 28, the South Korean pianist had already won first prizes at the 2015 International German Piano Award in Frankfort, the Vendome Prize at the 2014 Verbier Festival, and the 2012 William Kapell International Piano Competition. He currently lives in Munich, but will be touring (and releasing an album on Decca) as a result of the Van Cliburn gold.
There’s more information about his win at the Van Cliburn Competition website.
Yekwon Sunwoo had actually competed in Fort Worth before, but knew from the beginning that he hadn’t prepared enough. “That time my main goal was just to play through, and just nothing else, so I was happy about it. But this time I really prepared, so I guess things worked out this time… The competition goes for about two and a half weeks. And it’s actually very physically and mentally fatiguing and challenging. But they really test the musicians, if they have what it takes to be a concert pianist and touring all over the world, and not get tired, and not be lazy about music.” The prestige, tour, and recording project that accompanies this particular win is really life changing, he says. “I was very fortunate to have won quite a few prizes, in Japan, and in the States, and some other places in Europe. But Van Cliburn, I mean, it has such a reputation. I knew that Van Cliburn is one of the major competitions in the world, and also that this actually, unlike any other competition, this really guarantees an artist to really start a new career.” Among the stops on his tour, in early October, he’ll come to the Steinway Society of the Bay Area for a performance in Saratoga.