Yekwon Sunwoo

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.[2][3][4] He won the Sendai International Music Competition in 2013.[5]

Yekwon Sunwoo
Pianist Yekwon Sunwoo
Yekwon at June 2017 press conference after winning gold medal at the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition
Background information
Born (1989-02-10) February 10, 1989 (age 31)
Anyang, Gyeonggi, South Korea
Years active2004–present
Korean name
Revised RomanizationSeonu Yegwon
McCune–ReischauerSŏnu 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.[6] 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.[7] While living in Korea, Sunwoo studied with Min-ja Shin and Sun-wha Kim.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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.

Following an announcement in December 2017, Sunwoo is currently managed worldwide by Keynote Artist Management[13] and in Korea by MOC Production.[14]

Chamber musicEdit

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.


Year Event Award
2017 Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold medal
2015 International German Piano Award[15] First Prize
2014 Vendome Prize (held at the Verbier Festival)[16] First Prize
2013 Sendai International Music Competition [17] First Prize
2012 Piano Campus International Concours[18] First Prize and audience award
2012 William Kapell International Piano Competition[19] First Prize and audience and chamber awards
2009 Interlaken Classics Competition First Prize
2008 Florida International Piano Competition[20] First Prize


Album Label Release
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[21] Fontec December 3, 2014
Prokofiev Violin Sonatas with Benjamin Beilman Analekta May 3, 2011


  1. ^ "如花般燦爛的春日古典音樂演出...2017首爾春季室內樂慶典". The Dong-a Ilbo. 2017-04-25. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  2. ^ Woolfe, Zachary (2017-06-11). "South Korean Pianist Wins the Van Cliburn Competition". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  3. ^ "Yekwon Sunwoo of South Korea wins the Cliburn Piano Competition". Dallas News. 2017-06-10. Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  4. ^ "Yekwon Sunwoo – The Cliburn". Retrieved 2018-04-12.
  5. ^ "피아니스트 선우예권, 日센다이 콩쿠르 우승". Yonhap. 2013-06-30. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
  6. ^ Madigan, Tim. "Cliburn confidential: Yekwon Sunwoo". Star-Telegram. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  7. ^ Kim, Kyung-eun (2017-06-12). "Award-winning pianist is proud to have no regrets". JoongAng Ilbo. Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  8. ^ "Marin Alsop to Conduct BSO in Mahler's TITAN". Broadway World. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Winner of Cliburn piano competition to perform in October". The Eagle. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  10. ^ Gottschalk, Gloria. "Itzhak Perlman Conducts the Juilliard Orchestra in Works by Mozart, Beethoven, and Berlioz". Musical America. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  11. ^ "2017 Competition Prizes". Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  12. ^ Lowry, Mark. "Yekwon Sunwoo Wins Cliburn". Theater Jones. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  13. ^ "Cliburn Gold Medal Winner, Yekwon Sunwoo Joins Keynote". Keynote Artist Management. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  14. ^ "Yekwon Sunwoo". MOC Production. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  15. ^ "8th International German Piano Award". International Piano Forum. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Laureates". The Vendom Prize. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Yekwon Sunwoo Profile". Sendai International Music Competition. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  18. ^ Jackson, Julie. "Kumho classical stars dominate competitions". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  19. ^ Smith, Tim. "Yekwon Sunwoo wins 2012 Kapell Competition at University of Maryland". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  20. ^ Palm, Matthew J. "Florida International Piano Competition returns to Orlando". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  21. ^ "Winner of The 5th SIMC, SUNWOO Yekwon". Sendai International Music Competition. Retrieved 13 April 2018.

External linksEdit