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Pianist Sohn Min-soo wants students to find own style

Nov. 8, 2023 - 18:15 By Park Ga-young
Sohn Min-soo performs Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 at the opening concert of Musical Festival Pohang on Saturday, at Pohang Culture and Art Hall in Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province. (Musical Festival Pohang)

Last week, pianist Sohn Min-soo took the stage with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 at the opening concert of Music Festival Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province. On Oct. 27, Sohn, the artist of the year of the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra, performed Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with the orchestra in Busan.

In 2017, Sohn began performing and recording Beethoven's complete piano sonatas, a project that would take five years to complete. In 2022, he offered the complete performance of Liszt's Transcendental Etudes. And this year, he will present Rachmaninoff' Etudes-Tableaux Op. 33 & Op. 39 for his recital at Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul on Nov. 27.

As Sohn, 47, continues to challenge himself as a pianist, he is also a prominent educator.

He began teaching at New England Conservatory, his alma mater, this semester. Before joining NEC, he was on the faculty at the Korean National University of Arts, known as K-Arts, from 2015. At K-Arts, his many students included Lim Yun-chan, who became the youngest winner in the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition's history last year.

Lim showed his trust in and respect for his teacher Sohn multiple times, and just as many had expected when Sohn’s decision to join NEC was announced, Lim also began studying at NEC this semester.

At NEC, Sohn has taken 11 students under his instruction, and he is expected to include six more pupils next year.

What he wants his students to keep in mind is not merely emulating other performers, but rather finding and preserving their unique style.

"Most students have already listened to around 20-30 excellent versions of the piece. It's fortunate if they can digest the strengths of each performance and make it their own," Sohn told reporters after the opening concert of Music Festival Pohang on Friday.

“However, there is a significant risk of getting too absorbed in other people's performances and unintentionally imitating them, ultimately losing their own distinctive style,” he added.

Instilling self-trust is another important element that he prioritizes for his students.

Sohn emphasized that many students at K-Arts have exceptional potential and asked the media to keep an eye on them.

“In Korea, there are many young students with exceptional talents, and in fact, these students possess talents that can shine wherever they are,” he said.

"It seems that there are incredibly talented individuals who are already greatly capable even before they meet passionate and dedicated teachers."