Gold medalist of prestigious piano competition performing Feb. 25 at SJU

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February 5, 2018

Yekwon Sunwoo

Yekwon Sunwoo

When asked to name some great pianists, classical music fans would cite Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Franz Liszt. Jazz fans would coolly snap their fingers to Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock or Thelonious Monk. Rock fans would boogie to Elton John, Billy Joel or Jerry Lee Lewis.

Different (keyboard) strokes for different folks, right?

But one of the most respected young pianists in the world will be performing at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater at Saint John’s University.

Yekwon Sunwoo, gold medalist of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, will perform a concert as part of the Fine Arts Series at the College of Saint Benedict and SJU.

Sunwoo, 28, a native of South Korea, was the first Korean to win the prestigious international competition.

Widely recognized as the most important international piano competition, the Cliburn Competition received a record 290 entries representing 43 countries. Thirty pianists from 17 countries were invited to the competition May 25-June 10, 2017, in Fort Worth, Texas.

The San Francisco Examiner newspaper hailed Sunwoo for “his total command over the instrument and its expressiveness.” A powerful and virtuosic performer, Sunwoo – in his own words – “strives to reach for the truth and pure beauty in music,” and hopes to convey those fundamental emotions to audiences.

Sunwoo moved to the United States in 2005 to study with Seymour Lipkin at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He earned his bachelor’s degree there, his master’s at The Juilliard School in New York City with Robert McDonald and his artist diploma at the Mannes School of Music in New York City with Richard Goode. He currently studies with Bernd Goetzke at the Hanover (Germany) University of Music, Drama and Media.

Sunwoo honored the Lipkin, who passed away in 2015, by performing his cadenza during the semifinal round performance of the Mozart Piano Concerto in C Major, K. 467.

First held in 1962, the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is named for American pianist Harvey Lavan "Van" Cliburn Jr. who won the inaugural quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958. The Cliburn International Piano Competition was established to perpetuate Cliburn’s unique legacy of demonstrating how classical music, in the hands of a master, has the appeal to reach across all borders.

Following the concert, Sunwoo is scheduled to hold a session with CSB/SJU piano students. He is also set to work with youth Feb. 24 at the Wirth Center for the Performing Arts, St. Cloud. 

Tickets for Sunwoo’s Feb. 25 performance are $22 for adults, $19 for seniors, $15 for CSB/SJU faculty and staff, $15 for youth and students and $10 for CSB and SJU students.

For tickets, call the Benedicta Arts Center Box Office at 320-363-5777 or order online.

The play is sponsored by Gearbox Functional Creative.

The activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.