Seong-Jin Cho | Biography


Seong-Jin Cho
© Harald Hoffmann / DG
Please note that because of the Covid−19 pandemic, we are currently unable to provide reliable information about forthcoming live performances.
“Cho, still in his mid−20s, plays not only with panache but with depth and sensitivity … [He] shone in the dreamy second movement, spinning it out into a long-building fantasy that one didn’t want to end.”
The Washington Post, reviewing a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major, April 2019
Intense reflection and expressive insight are among the attributes cultivated by Seong-Jin Cho, qualities apt to connect with audiences at the deepest levels of imagination and emotion. The award-winning pianist has won widespread public and critical acclaim for his mature musicianship and refined artistry in an extensive range of repertoire. Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “a master of the virtuosic miniature”, he has received equal praise for his eloquent readings of concertos and larger-scale solo works by composers from Mozart to Shostakovich.
The South Korean pianist was catapulted to fame when he won First Prize at the 17th Chopin International Piano Competition in October 2015. When Deutsche Grammophon rush-released performances recorded live during the Competition, the all-Chopin album was propelled to the No.1 spot in the Korean pop chart on the strength of pre-release orders alone. Having secured triple platinum sales in Korea within a week of its release in November 2015, it rapidly went on to attract a worldwide following. Cho signed an exclusive contract with DG in January 2016.
His latest album for the Yellow Label, The Wanderer, is set for international release on 8 May 2020. It opens with Schubert’s mighty Wanderer Fantasy D760, and closes with Liszt’s legendary Sonata in B minor, a work whose scale and complexity reveal the influence of the Wanderer Fantasy. Framed by these is Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op.1, indebted in turn to Liszt.
The Wanderer is the follow-up to Cho’s Mozart album, issued in November 2018 and  featuring the Sonatas K281 and K332, and Concerto No.20 in D minor K466, for which the pianist was joined by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (“[Cho] proves himself a natural, and weighty, Mozartian”, The Times). Before Mozart came an all-Debussy affair: Images I and II, L’isle joyeuse, the Suite bergamasque and Children’s Corner. Released in November 2017, in time to mark the composer’s centenary in 2018, the album garnered rave reviews, the Telegraph hailing the pianist’s exceptional achievement in capturing “that special Debussyan combination of grandeur and quicksilver lightness and sudden passion”. Cho’s first studio album for Deutsche Grammophon, released a year earlier, featured works which he described as his “dream repertoire” – Chopin’s Four Ballades, recorded in Hamburg, and the Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor, recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda.
Born in Seoul on 28 May 1994, Seong-Jin Cho began playing piano at the age of six and gave his first public performance at eleven. In September 2008 he won the Sixth Moscow International Frederick Chopin Competition for Young Pianists and the following year took First Prize at the Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan. Having moved to Paris in 2012 to study with Michel Béroff at the Conservatoire, he is now based in Berlin.
Paving the way to Cho’s victory at the prestigious Chopin International Piano Competition were Third Prize successes at the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and the 2014 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, as well as concerto dates with leading conductors and orchestras. He continues to perform on a regular basis with such eminent figures as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Myung-Whun Chung, Valery Gergiev, Vasily Petrenko, Mikhail Pletnev, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Yuri Temirkanov, and major international orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Mariinsky Orchestra, NHK Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra.
Cho began the 2019–20 season by performing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Jaap van Zweden, then giving recitals in Singapore, Seoul, Tongyeong and Tokyo. He made further recital appearances in Europe in October, a tour that included his Hamburg debut (at the city’s Laeiszhalle), as well as performances in Düsseldorf and St Petersburg. He then returned to Asia for tours with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the WDR Sinfonieorchester and Marek Janowski, before travelling to the US to make his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. He ended 2019 with performances of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Concerto with the Orchestre National de France and James Gaffigan in Paris, Aix-en-Provence and Chalon-sur-Saône. In the New Year he returned to North America for further debuts, this time with the Toronto and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and Manfred Honeck respectively.