Violinist Siwoo Kim performed at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert series on March 29, 2017. Kim, who studied at the Music Institute of Chicago and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Juilliard, was joined by pianist Rachel Kudo.
Click here to listen to Siwoo Kim's performance via the WFMT podcast. The program he selected featured works from Bartók, Brahms, and Debussy.
Read our conversation with Kim below.
Picture this Post: When did you start playing your instrument? How did it come about?
Siwoo Kim: I started playing the violin at the age of two-and-a-half. The reason I started so early was because my parents ran a music school in South Korea. Our home was within the school, so as soon as I could crawl, music was my way of interacting and socializing with around 250 students.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Kangwondo, Wonju (South Korea), but my family emigrated when I was five years old, primarily for my education. Since then, I mostly grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but I received my musical training in Chicago from Roland and Almita Vamos.
What have been the major competitions you have won or other milestones in your career? Do you play other instruments?
I competed during my high school and undergraduate years. During that time, I won the Corpus Christi International Competition for Piano and Strings, Crescendo Music Awards, Ima Hogg Young Artist Competition, Schadt String Competition, Hellam Young Artist Competition, California Young Artist Competition, Chengdu International Violin Competition, King Award for Young Artists, WAMSO Young Artist competition, NFAA youngARTS Awards, Sejong Music Competition, and Juilliard’s Violin Competition.
Important milestones for me have come to me in the form of experiences. I made my concerto debut with the Juilliard Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, and this was particularly meaningful because soon after we emigrated, my mother drove me to New York and said, “One day, you’ll go to Juilliard and one day, you’ll play in Carnegie Hall.” Soon after, I met Samuel Adler who wrote a violin concerto and asked me to give the world premiere. This opened my eyes to the idea of collaboration and exploring music beyond Mozart and Brahms.
Then, I was invited to play with Ensemble DITTO in South Korea by Stefan Jackiw and Richard O’Neill. It was the first time I went back to my country of origin since emigrating, and I’ve been there quite a few times since! Joining Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect was an eye-opening experience as I discovered that I had a passion for entrepreneurship and advocacy for the arts. Thanks to the program, my longtime friend, John Stulz, and I started our own chamber music festival (vivofestival.org) in our hometown of Columbus, Ohio. Finally, going to Marlboro Music Festival and working with my colleagues there has taught me to never stop listening and searching for deeper and more creative ways of expressing through music.
Please tell me about each piece in your program. Why did you choose this piece?
Each piece on this program gives me and Rachel the opportunity to share an intimate conversation with each other and the audience. Also, the nature of these works present an opportunity to explore and push the boundaries of our tone color pallette - a particular joy for me since I had been trained in visual arts as well.
Bartok Romanian Folk Dances is an arrangement for this instrumentation, but in its short span of time, it takes the listener on a quick journey through imaginative sound worlds.
Johannes Brahms is one of my favorite composers, more so because I’ve learned that he was as human as the rest of us - vulnerable. This sonata represents this side of him; not the monumental titan figure we often attribute him to.
The Debussy sonata was written towards the end of the composer’s life. Using a form perfected by figures such as Brahms and Mozart, he seamlessly navigates from section to section seamlessly in a wash of sensual harmonies and colors. Again, being a fan of the visual arts, this piece gives me an opportunity to meet halfway between disciplines. Almita Vamos once told me in a memorable lesson: “think of the bow as a paintbrush.”
Do you any personal or professional goals for the coming year?
I will be recording my first concerto album this season – a premiere recording of Samuel Adler’s violin concerto. Professionally, I’d like to simultaneously offer a recital album. Artistically, I want to strive for such conviction in my interpretations that I feel more confident about immortalizing them.
To keep up with Siwoo Kim's recordings and performances, visit the official Siwoo Kim website.