Piano Street Magazine

Mozart Can Tell the Difference

June 21st, 2017 in Piano News by | 4 comments

For the first time in the history of The Cliburn Competition, semifinalists were required to perform a Mozart concerto. This was not only based on the fact that the Cliburn Foundation’s CEO Jacques Marquis is a classical concerto fan, but rather from the aim of judging how competitors show musical maturity and the delicate world of the Austrian master.


As Dallas News writer Scott Cantrell puts it: “Mozart concertos aren’t pianistic showpieces. But they’re like microscopes focusing on fine details: rhythmic steadiness and spring, shapely phrasing, a keen ear for coordinating with the orchestra and a sense for when the piano is a foreground soloist, and when it’s texture filling.”

As the final round includes the bombasms of the great romantic concertos of composers such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, the Mozart aspect along with the chamber music (Piano Quartet) momentum allows the jury to get a much more diversified picture of each finalist.

During the semifinals the 2017 Cliburn winner, 28-year-old Sunwoo Yekwon had chosen the Mozart concerto No. 21 in C major K. 467, and was praised for his “bold, vividly characterized” interpretation which included the quality of “taking liberties with unaccompanied passages, but he always worked back into the orchestra’s tempo”. The performance held a strong personal stamp.

Sunwoo Yekwon honored his late teacher, Seymour Lipkin, by performing a cadenza that his teacher wrote. He had asked permission years earlier to play the cadenza and said he was glad he was able to play it during the Cliburn competition.

“People seemed to enjoy it, I’m not sure about the jury members but the audience members enjoyed it and that matters a lot”, said Sunwoo after his performance with Nicholas McGegan conducting the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

Given a choice of nine concertos, the 12 semifinalists had just chosen four; Nos. 20, 21, 23 and 25, all composed during Mozart’s so-called Don Giovanni period.

Hear Sunwoo Yekwon perform Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto in C major K. 467:

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  • Avrelle says:

    Beautiful music by the orchestra and pianist and a joy to listen to while relaxing. Mr. Yekwon, the piano is definitely your forte❗️

  • Germán Pacchioni says:

    Maravilloso. Admirando la majestuosidad de Mozart en las manos aladas de Sunwoo Yekwon.

  • Alan says:

    A transportation of delight. A perfect blend of piano and orchestra. Such an unaffected, lyrical interpretation of one of Mozarts greatest and brightest piano concertos. Bravo Sunwoo!

  • Jack Morris says:

    This piano concerto has the most brilliant piano development (1st movement) of any composition I’ve every heard. It is even more fantastic when you learn to play it. So it is heaven for the performer as well as the listener.

    Even though Mozart wrote in such an elegant fashion, he was like the skilled Japanese sword masters. They would take molten steel and layer it over and over ad infinitum until they had forged metal so fine and sharp that it could not be equaled anywhere in the world.

    Such is Mozart’s music and Concerto #21 is one excellent example of this.


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