Gold medalist of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 29-year- old pianist Yekwon Sunwoo has been hailed for his “unfailingly consistent excellence” (International Piano) and celebrated as “a pianist who commands a comprehensive technical arsenal that allows him to thunder without breaking a sweat” (Chicago Tribune). A powerful and virtuosic performer, he also, in his own words, “strives to reach for the truth and pure beauty in music.”
The first Korean to win Cliburn gold, Mr. Sunwoo’s 2018-19 season features concerto performances with Munich Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev in Seoul, Frankfurter Opern- und Museumsorchester under Sebastian Weigle, Orchestra i Pomeriggi Musicali under Daniele Callegari, and a European tour with the KBS Symphony. He extensively tours Japan including Tokyo, Sendai, and Shizuoka. Solo recitals bring him to Houston’s Society of the Performing Arts, Washington Performing Arts, Texas Performing Arts, Seattle’s Meany Hall, Portugal’s Casa da Musica, and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. He also performs chamber music with the New York Philharmonic String Quartet.
Last season, Decca Gold released Cliburn Gold 2017 two weeks after his Cliburn win, which includes his award-winning performances of Ravel’s La Valse and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Sonata.
Born in Anyang, South Korea, Mr. Sunwoo gave both his recital and orchestra debuts in 2004 in Seoul. In previous seasons, Mr. Sunwoo has performed as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop, The Juilliard Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman at Avery Fisher Hall, Houston Symphony Orchestra with James Feddeck, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra with Leonard Slatkin and Nicholas McGegan, National Orchestra of Belgium, Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and others. He has appeared in recital at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall in London, Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Hamarikyu Asahi Hall in Tokyo, Radio France and Salle Cortot in Paris, Kumho Art Hall in Seoul, and throughout South Korea, Germany, Switzerland, Prague, and Morocco, among other countries. He has also performed at prominent music festivals including the Aspen, Grand Teton, and Duszniki International Music Festivals. Last spring, he undertook a nine-city tour of the United States with the National Orchestra of Cuba.
An avid chamber musician, Mr. Sunwoo’s partners have included the Jerusalem and Brentano String Quartets, violinists Benjamin Beilman and Ida Kafavian, cellists Edgar Moreau, Gary Hoffman, and Peter Wiley, and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott. He has toured Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama with the Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation, performed for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Inside Chamber Music Lectures, and been invited to the Summit Music, Bowdoin International, and Toronto Summer Music Festivals.
In addition to the Cliburn gold medal, Mr. Sunwoo has won first prizes at the 2015 International German Piano Award in Frankfurt, the 2014 Vendome Prize held at the Verbier Festival, the 2013 Sendai International Music Competition, and the 2012 William Kapell International Piano Competition.
Mr. Sunwoo began learning piano at age 8. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the Curtis Institute of Music, master’s degree at The Juilliard School, and artist diploma at the Mannes School of Music studying with Seymour Lipkin, Robert McDonald, and Richard Goode, respectively. He currently studies with Bernd Goetzke at Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover. Mr. Sunwoo credits each teacher for their guidance in his artistic development and approach.
A self-proclaimed foodie, Mr. Sunwoo enjoys finding pho in each city he visits and takes pride in his own homemade Korean soups.