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[Herald Interview] Violinist Kim Bomsori on Go and her nickname, "competition hunter"

By Park Ga-young

Published : June 9, 2023 - 17:17

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Korean violinist Kim Bomsori (Lotte Concert Hall) Korean violinist Kim Bomsori (Lotte Concert Hall)

It is true that the name "Bomsori" holds the beautiful meaning of "spring sound" in Korean and is quite rare to come across, but it is not the sole reason why violinist Kim Bomsori stands out.

A recent email interview with Kim reveals what truly makes the 32-year-old violinist special. She fell in love with the string instrument at the age of five when she was mesmerized by the sound of Korean violinist Chung Kyung-wha’s performance, even though it didn’t take long to realize that the violin is not an easy instrument.

“I still vividly remember the shock I had with the strange noise I made. It wasn’t what I wanted and I quickly realized that the violin is not an instrument that produces sounds effortlessly and smoothly,” Kim said.

From that initial noise she produced, it has now transformed into the resounding sound of a violinist who travels the world, performing with world-class orchestras.

On June 16, Kim will take the stage with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Lahav Shani at Lotte Concert Hall to perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto.

Based in Berlin now, the musician will make her debut at the BBC Proms in London, the Hollywood Bowl in LA and the Paris Philharmonic. Her Proms debut in July will mark her debut in London with an orchestra.

While there are undoubtedly multiple factors that have contributed to her becoming one of the most sought-after violinists -- such as her longstanding music diary she has kept since middle school and numerous games of Go, or "baduk" in Korean -- winning various competitions has played a pivotal role in shaping her identity and establishing her as a violinist.

Kim has a long list of competitions that she has won: the 62nd ARD International Music Competition, the Tchaikovsky International Competition, the Queen Elisabeth Competition, the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, the Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition, the Montreal International Musical Competition and the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition.

This string of achievements has earned her the nickname, “competition hunter.”

She used to feel awkward about the nickname, but now she says, "It reminds me of the days when I fervently pursued my dreams of standing on the world stage, evoking memories of the intense but naive passion I had back then. This nickname brings back my initial aspirations and reminds me of the hard-fought struggle.”

She admits competitions have their advantages and disadvantages, but she said she would like to encourage aspiring musicians to take on the challenge of a competition to digest a wide range of pieces in a short period of time and to gain insights into performing.

In college, she reignited her passion for baduk, reminiscing about her enjoyable memories of the game from her childhood. Seoul National University, where she studied, was home to numerous skilled players, and during baduk club retreats, they would stay up all night engaging in various types of baduk games, while also participating in exchange matches with Tokyo University students.

“As Go is a time-consuming game, I rarely have the chance to play it nowadays. Occasionally, I enjoy watching professional players' games or solving baduk problems for leisure. To be honest, it feels like my skill and stamina have diminished significantly,” she told The Korea Herald.

“Through a game of Go, you can catch a glimpse of the player's style, personality, and values. I believe the same applies to music. When we listen to a composer's work or a musician's album, we can get a glimpse into their personal life. In other words, they cannot hide or disguise themselves within music. Both baduk and music offer a genuine and honest way to confront one's true self,” she explained when asked what performing violin and playing Go have in common.

Additionally, both Go and music involve an element of interaction, Kim added.

"In playing Go, there is always an opponent, and the game revolves around reading and anticipating the opponent's moves. The unexpected moves made by the opponent can change the flow and atmosphere of the game. Therefore, the moves made by the opponent are of great importance," she explained.

"Similarly, in violin performance, it is often accompanied by the piano during recitals, or when playing with an orchestra or in chamber music. In these performances, we constantly need to listen and respond to the music played by other musicians. The performance itself becomes a form of communication and dialogue," she said.

Korean violinist Kim Bomsori (Lotte Concert Hall) Korean violinist Kim Bomsori (Lotte Concert Hall)