Yekwon Sunwoo (Korean: 선우예권; born February 10, 1989 in Anyang) is a South Korean classical pianist. In 2017, at 28 years old, Sunwoo was the first Korean to win the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. He won the Sendai International Music Competition in 2013.
Yekwon at June 2017 press conference after winning gold medal at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
|Born||February 10, 1989|
Anyang, Gyeonggi, South Korea
|Revised Romanization||Seonu Yegwon|
Sunwoo was born in Anyang, South Korea in 1989. He began studying piano at the age of 8, drawn to the instrument from hearing his two older sisters play. By 2004 at the age of 15, he had given both his recital and orchestra debuts in Seoul. Sunwoo attended Seoul Arts High School in South Korea. While living in Korea, Sunwoo studied with Min-ja Shin and Sun-wha Kim.
At the age of 15, Sunwoo moved to the United States to attend the Curtis Institute of Music where he received the Rachmaninoff prize and studied with Seymour Lipkin. After graduating with his Bachelor’s degree, Sunwoo then earned his master’s degree studying with Robert McDonald at The Juilliard School, where he won both the Munz Scholarship Competition and the Arthur Rubinstein Prize. He then earned his artist diploma from the Mannes School of Music studying with Richard Goode. Sunwoo currently studies under Bernd Goetzke at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover in Germany.
After winning the 2008 Florida International Piano Competition, Sunwoo gave his Carnegie Hall debut in New York City in 2009. He went on to win several other competitions including the William Kapell International Piano Competition, Vendome Prize held at the Verbier Festival, and the International German Piano Award.
On June 10, 2017, Sunwoo won the gold medal of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, becoming the first Korean to do so. The quadrennial competition, named in honor of pianist Van Cliburn, included four rounds of performances consisting of two 45-minute solo recitals and one 60-minute solo recital with no overlapping repertoire in addition to a piano quintet performed with the Brentano String Quartet and two piano concertos played with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, one under Nicholas McGegan and other under Leonard Slatkin. The Competition received 290 applications from which 30 were invited to compete in the live competition. By winning the gold medal, Sunwoo was awarded the Van Cliburn Cup, $50,000, three years of career management, a live recording and a recording partnership with Universal Music Group, press kits, videos, a website, and performance attire by Neiman Marcus.
Two weeks after the conclusion of the 2017 Cliburn competition, Decca Gold released Cliburn Gold 2017 which includes Sunwoo’s live performances from the Competition.
Sunwoo has performed with many top-tier orchestras including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with Marin Alsop, Orchestre National de Belgique, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra with James Feddeck, and The Juilliard Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman. He has given recitals in venues across the world including the Berliner Philharmonie, Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Hamarikyu Asahi Hall in Tokyo, Wigmore Hall in London, and Kumho Art Hall in Seoul.
Sunwoo is an active chamber musician and has performed with such ensembles as the Jerusalem (during the final round of the 2014 Vendome Prize Piano Competiition held in Verbier) and Brentano String Quartets in addition to violinist Ida Kafavian, cellists Edgar Moreau, Gary Hoffman, and Peter Wiley, and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott. He has released two albums with violinist Benjamin Beilman, Spectrum and Prokofiev Violin Sonatas. In 2007, he toured Central America including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama with the Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation. He has been presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and invited to several music festivals including Summit Music, Bowdoin International, and Toronto.
|2017||Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition||Gold medal|
|2015||International German Piano Award||First Prize|
|2014||Vendome Prize (held at the Verbier Festival)||First Prize|
|2013||Sendai International Music Competition ||First Prize|
|2012||Piano Campus International Concours||First Prize and audience award|
|2012||William Kapell International Piano Competition||First Prize and audience and chamber awards|
|2009||Interlaken Classics Competition||First Prize|
|2008||Florida International Piano Competition||First Prize|
|Cliburn Gold 2017||Decca Gold||August 18, 2017|
|Crossing Spheres||Genuin||June 16, 2017|
|Spectrum with Benjamin Beilman||Warner Classics||March 11, 2016|
|Yekwon Sunwoo||Fontec||December 3, 2014|
|Prokofiev Violin Sonatas with Benjamin Beilman||Analekta||May 3, 2011|
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- Jackson, Julie. "Kumho classical stars dominate competitions". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- Smith, Tim. "Yekwon Sunwoo wins 2012 Kapell Competition at University of Maryland". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- Palm, Matthew J. "Florida International Piano Competition returns to Orlando". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
- "Winner of The 5th SIMC, SUNWOO Yekwon". Sendai International Music Competition. Retrieved 13 April 2018.