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2018.12.20 Official Report

【Official】Interview with LEE Hyuk, winner of the third prize

When I perform a happy work, I want the audience to feel happy; if it's a sad work, I want them to cry.




- How are you feeling now after finishing the competition?

First of all, I am surprised to have gotten through to the final; especially because I was unable to finish my performance in the semi-final [due to exceeding the time limit]. I am very honored to be one of the finalists, who are all wonderful.

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- Your performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in the final left a very vivid impression on me; it was as though I'd listened to the work for the first time in my life. What image did you have in your mind during your performance?

I always have my own image for any work I perform. I focus on that image and follow a story of my own during the performance.



-・・・So, you're not going to tell me that story?

No, I'm not (laughs).



- You mean, you want the audience to listen to your performance and grasp it.

That's right!



- I felt a very strong rhythm during your performance, more than I usually do when I listen to this work. While enjoying your performance, I wondered if it was because you have a brilliant sense of rhythm.

Rachmaninov was a very powerful musician, and I wanted to convey that aspect, too, during my performance. In particular, around the finale of the final movement, even Rachmaninov himself mentioned that the music depicts a moving train in the United States. You feel very strong beats in there. It was my intention to carefully express that kind of sense to the audience.


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- You chose the Yamaha for this competition. How did you find about the piano?

It was wonderful. The piano's quality was very good, and I was able to express whatever I wanted to during this competition. The Yamaha staff members who supported me were all very friendly, and I felt as if they were my family.



- In 2017, you came to Japan and gave concerts in Tokyo, Hamamatsu, etc. as the winner of the Paderewski Competition in 2016.

Yes, I have been to Japan a few times.



- This time, you stayed in Hamamatsu as a competitor in this competition; did you find out anything new about yourself during that period?

The Hamamatsu Competition was one of the largest competitions I have taken part in so far. It gave me substantial opportunities that consisted of three solo stages and one concerto; it was a great experience for me to present my repertoire as many as four times on that large stage.

The audience of the Hamamatsu Competition was new to me and different from that of the Paderewski Competition. I can sense they are highly interested in classical music here in Hamamatsu. I won't forget the experience I gained here as long as I live.

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- When I interviewed you last time, you said you are a big fan of Marc-André Hamelin and you therefore follow his repertoires, such as works by Alkan. But these days, Hamelin doesn't play such transcendent works as much, do you not think?

You're right, Schubert and Schumann, in many cases...(laughs)



- When I did an interview with him when he visited Japan last time, he said he used to be happy to be described as a "super virtuoso" by Schonberg; but at a certain point he got sick of it, and since then his repertoires have changed. I wonder if you will feel the same moment sometime in the future...

Maybe I will. But I particularly like Russian works, so I don't think my entire repertoire will ever be all Schumann (laughs). Well, of course I like German Romantic works. Anyway, I like to work on a wide-ranging repertoire.


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- I think you are currently studying at the Moscow Conservatory, am I right?

Yes. I studied in Korea until I was 14 years old, then I started studying in Moscow in 2014.





- Well, you are a strong chess player, and you also enjoy computer programming. I wonder if you have really made up your mind to become a pianist... perhaps you are still thinking about pursuing other career paths?

Well, I am now determined to become a pianist (laughs). I used to do programming a lot, but I no longer have time. My current specialty is piano, for sure, although I play the violin as well.



In fact, I started my music practice with the violin at the age of three; then I started piano as well in tandem. The first internal competition I won was in the piano section, which was the Moscow International Chopin Competition for Young Pianists, and that was why I started to play mainly piano.




- So, you stopped playing the violin at that time?



No, I still play it, of course. My repertoire includes Mendelssohn's violin concerto. I won a small competition in Moscow a while ago.




-Really?! That's great.

Well, it's a very small competition, not comparable to the Hamamatsu Competition, at all...



- Conductor Takaseki mentioned that there was something of the genius about you, because you were very relaxed during a rehearsal for your final, looking at your brother in the seating area, turning a page of the score, and so on, while performing such a difficult concerto...

Really (laughs). My brother was videotaping my rehearsal. He is 11 years old, and is also studying piano and violin in Moscow.

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- Are you from a musical family?

Not really. Just my brother and I study music. We plan to give a duo performance one day.



- Please come to Japan when you do that! By the way, what gives you inspiration to perform your music?

Let's see...what has the biggest impact on me might be reading books. I find stories in books. You should have many stories in your mind and tell them through your musical performance. I read many different kinds of books. Russian classics such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are of course my favorite, but I like many others, too; I can't specify any as my best.

Other than reading, when I walk in a town or in the mountains, maybe when I play chess...in fact, any time is a source of inspiration for me to imagine a story inside my head. Practicing several hours a day is not the only component of my music.



- What do you want to cherish the most when you go along the path of a pianist from now on?

What is the most important for me when I play the piano is to create music and communicate with the audience. When I perform a happy work, I want the audience to feel happy; if it's a sad work, I want them to cry. What I want is communication. If you are only performing for yourself, it isn't what I think of as music.

I want to be a genuine pianist, or musician, who can tell a story, or convey the composer's story, to the audience through my music.


Text by Haruka KOSAKA

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