Seong-Jin Cho | Biography


Seong-Jin Cho
© Christoph Köstlin
“… the finesse of his pianism, which I admired in his Debussy recital, is abundantly in evidence here too. In his hands the Wanderer Fantasy’s more unpianistic elements are well honed and even the biggest climaxes are beautifully controlled. The work’s grandeur is evident from the very opening … in the fugal finale Cho combines strength and sensitivity, underlining the piece’s symphonic majesty.”
Gramophone, reviewing The Wanderer
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 first studio album for the Yellow Label, released in November 2016, featured more music by Chopin: the Four Ballades, and the Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and Gianandrea Noseda. Next 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 for capturing “that special Debussyan combination of grandeur and quicksilver lightness and sudden passion”.
A year later Cho released an album of works by Mozart – Sonatas K281 and K332, and Concerto No.20 in D minor K466, for which he was joined by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. This was followed in May 2020 by The Wanderer, which 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. Limelight Magazine called the album “a sparkling showreel of Cho’s talents”.
For his next recording he teamed up with Matthias Goerne, one of the world’s most renowned Lieder singers, to perform a selection of late Romantic works by Wagner, Pfitzner and Richard Strauss. Im Abendrot was released in April 2021. Cho’s latest album sees him reunited with the LSO and Gianandrea Noseda to continue his exploration of the music of Chopin. Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 · Scherzi is set for release on 27 August 2021, and the digital version of the album will also include three bonus solo tracks: the “Revolutionary” Étude, Op. 10 no. 12, Impromptu No. 1, Op. 29 and Nocturne, Op. 9 no. 2.
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, Gustavo Dudamel, Valery Gergiev, Vasily Petrenko, Mikhail Pletnev, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Yuri Temirkanov, and major international orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Mariinsky Orchestra, NHK Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Highlights of the 2020–21 season so far include his debut with the Münchner Philharmoniker, with whom he performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20, K466 in Munich and Hamburg, conducted by Gergiev; a recital tour of South Korea; and, on 27 January, the world premiere of a recently discovered piano work by Mozart – Cho performed the Allegro in D in the Great Hall of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation and recorded the work as an e‑single, released by Deutsche Grammophon on 29 January. His future plans include appearances in July at the Ruhr Piano Festival (with Matthias Goerne), the Granada International Festival of Music and Dance and at the International Chopin Piano Festival in Duszniki-Zdrój (August).
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