Simon Rattle praises Seong-Jin Cho as a poet on the keyboard

Simon Rattle praises Seong-Jin Cho as a poet on the keyboard

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Chief Conductor Simon Rattle (center) speaks as pianist Seong-Jin Cho (left) and composer Unsuk Chin listen during a press conference held Sunday at the JW Marriott in Seoul (Photo credit: Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation)

Feature: Simon Rattle’s last tour in Korea with Berlin Philharmonic sweetened by pianist Seong-Jin Cho
By Kim Hoo-ran
The Korea Herald
November 19, 2017

A few hours ahead of Sunday evening’s concert at the Seoul Arts Center, Simon Rattle, conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, was relaxed and effusive in his praise of pianist Seong-Jin Cho, who would be performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, M. 83 with the orchestra.

“This is a time when the planet is full of extraordinary young pianists. It is not rare. But what is rare is a poet on the keyboard,” said Rattle, adding, “But he is seated to my right,” as he looked at Cho.

Last month, it was announced that Cho, the winner of the 2015 International Chopin Piano Competition, would be stepping in for Lang Lang for the Hong Kong and Seoul leg of Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s Asia tour as well as the Berlin and Frankfurt concerts that would kick off the tour. Lang Lang withdrew from the schedule due to an injury to his left arm.

“It has been a great honor to step in for Lang Lang,” said Cho. “I am sorry that tonight’s concert is my last performance in Sir Simon Rattle’s last tour with the Berlin Philharmonic. It was a great honor to tour with Sir Simon Rattle and I learned a lot.”

While Cho said he has found Rattle’s comment to him very helpful, he declined to reveal what it was, explaining that he would like to keep it private “as it was very precious.”

Remarking on pianist Krystian Zimerman’s recommendation of Cho, Rattle recalled how his longtime friend, known for being very critical of all pianists, including himself, had said Cho is a really great pianist. “He said I should hear him. I didn’t know how quickly I would hear him,” Rattle said.

“Zimerman appreciates stillness, tranquility and introspective music,” said Rattle, observing that he could see how the renowned Polish pianist could have a brotherly feeling for Cho that transcends generations.

Cho’s meteoritic rise in the world of classical music was not lost on the reporters or the pianist himself. Reminded of how he has fulfilled his two dreams — performing with the Berlin Philharmonic which he did for the first time on Nov. 4, and holding a recital at the Carnegie Hall, which took place earlier this year — at a relatively young age, Cho said that he also has dreams as a person and as a musician.

“My dreams as a pianist have been realized rather quickly. My dream as a pianist is to be reinvited,” said Cho. “My dream as a musician is a tomorrow that is better than today. My dream as a person is to be happy.”

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