Q&A with Yeol Eum Son

Auckland Philharmonia’s Lucy Harris chatted with piano soloist Yeol Eum Son ahead of her performance with the Auckland Philharmonia for Bayleys Great Classics: Beethoven 7.

Tell us about your process for learning a piano concerto.
It depends very much on my previous experience with the concerto… for instance, this C minor Concerto by Mozart is something that I first started to play when I was about 20 years old, so it’s like an old friend to me. It may also be my favourite piano concerto as a listener. Since I was a teenager, I have really enjoyed listening to others’ recordings and concerts of this piece for countless times. So, whenever I go back to it, it is like meeting a childhood friend. However, at the same time, it is stunning as I always discover something new.

What draws you to Mozart’s music?
This also depends on which works, because I find most of them are very different from each other. The C minor Concerto by Mozart for me is kind of a mystery. I find that it is a most uncertain, ‘going from nowhere to nowhere’ type of music. This is unlike the famous D minor Concerto, which feels much more dramatic in a particular way, and very much to the point.

Is there a composer or work you haven’t performed, that you would like to?
I feel privileged to explore the great diversity of piano music and have covered most that I dreamt of performing. Of course, there are still many things I want to try out in the future, but mostly for myself, and for fun! I want to play more on my harpsichord, which I purchased about a year ago.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I can name many people who have had a big influence on my career, but musically speaking, it is probably my latest piano teacher, Mr. Arie Vardi. Not only have I learned so much from him, but he also gave me immense trust and support, mentally.

What is your favourite venue in the world?
I actually like smaller venues… I like the feeling of interacting with each audience member… I’d say anywhere which has about 100 seats with good acoustics.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced during a concert?
It wasn’t a challenge at all, but during a concert that I did with the Auckland Philharmonia a year and half ago, an audience member in the balcony, just right ahead of me, started to have some problems – it may have been breathing or something similar, I wasn’t sure. She looked close to fainting and I could clearly see that people around her had started to gather and give her some help. I also felt like I should climb up the stairs to do something…!!! If I remember correctly, we stopped during the performance and waited for her to be carried off, then we started the second movement once again. Thank God she was okay, she came back in for the second half! Maestro Bellincampi brought her a flower at the end of the concert, after the Symphony.

What are you looking forward to exploring while you are in New Zealand?
Last time I was in Auckland, I was resting peacefully at my hotel room, then I suddenly saw through my window somebody falling down the building - I nearly screamed! After some googling, I realised that I was staying right next to the Sky Tower, with its famous Sky Jump. That’s something I always wanted to do, but never was able to find the time. I wish I could do that this time, although my hands are getting sweaty just thinking about it…

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Ask yourself ‘How do you know?’. This question can apply to anything.

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