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[Rising Virtuosos] Violinist Park Sueye: an evolving talent with five albums and counting

By Park Ga-young

Published : June 27, 2023 - 09:07

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South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Korean violinist Park Sueye and her parents decided to move to Germany when she was 9 years old to pursue Park's music education. She had been offered a chance to study with Ulf Wallin after attending his masterclass in Seoul.

Fast forward to 2023, and the 23-year-old has been increasingly active in her motherland. She has been steadily making a name for herself without having to win a major competition -- one of the fastest ways to gain broader recognition.

She has created an impressive track record with five albums under her belt, releasing almost one album per year since she signed a recording deal with BIS, a Swedish classical music label, at 16 years old. She released her first album, "Paganini: 24 Caprices," in November 2017.

Park Sueye's five albums released by BIS (BIS) Park Sueye's five albums released by BIS (BIS)

The number of albums Park has released is not just numerically impressive; their quality has also been recognized by experts across the industry.

Her third album, “Journey Through a Century,” was chosen as one of UK magazine Gramophone's Recordings of the Year in 2021.

Her fourth album with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, led by conductor Osmo Vanska, contains South Korean composer Yun I-sang’s Violin Concerto III, Chamber Symphony I and Silla.

Her fifth album, “Szymanowski -- Music for Violin and Piano,” came out in April.

As Park continues to make her mark on the classical music scene, the talented violinist has exciting plans for future recordings. One highly anticipated project is performing Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto, a suggestion that came directly from the renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Impressed by her exceptional skills, Dudamel suggested they collaborate on this concerto. However, the project has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recording an album is both a personal milestone at different stages of her life, and a testament to her transformative musical journey.

"I’m not sure if I would try to record the complete Paganini again when I turn 35. But to be honest, when I listen to my first album, it’s already very different," she said.

South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Undoubtedly, Park has evolved and undergone significant changes since her early days as a violinist. She has experienced many things and even plays a different instrument.

This year, she was honored as one of the recipients of Samsung Cultural Foundation’s Samsung Music Fellowship, along with five other rising musicians including cellist Han Jae-min and violinists Kim Bomsori and Randall Goosby. Park now plays Giovanni Battista Guadagnini’s "ex-Hamma," made in 1753, after six years of playing a 1758 violin made by Ferdinando Gagliano owned by a Berlin-based collector.

Like many aspiring musicians, Park, who is originally from Daegu, also participated in competitions in Korea before moving to Germany. In Germany, Park had to learn the language from scratch and, with the help of her teacher Wallin, she was able to discover new things beyond the violin.

“The violin was everything in my musical world, but my teacher has been gradually broadening my horizons and I started exploring other things little by little,” Park said.

Recently, she has been working as a teaching assistant at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin. There, she achieved the remarkable feat of being accepted into the Instrumental Department at the youngest possible age. She completed her graduate degree there in February.

“I guess I’m a polymath. I feel slightly happier when performing solo, but I have also changed through meeting many people. I’d also like to play in an ensemble and an orchestra, as well as teach,” Park said. “I learn a lot from teaching and performing in an orchestra once in a while. All of these experiences enhance my understanding of music.”

South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

There are many moments that she remembers vividly, such as a lady who gave her a gold ring after performing a violin concerto by Max Bruch at a church in Dresden when she was 12 years old.

“As soon as I played the very final note, a lady stood up and walked up to me, to my surprise. Then she took out her gold ring and just gave it to me,” Park recalled. “I wasn’t sure I should accept this and chased her to return it but she had already disappeared.”

Throughout the years that followed, Park encountered similar heartwarming moments.

She still keeps the ring as a constant reminder of her purpose as a musician -- to bring happiness and solace to those who listen to her music.

South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) South Korean violinist Park Sueye poses for photos during an interview with The Korea Herald on May 18 in Seoul. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

This is the third in the "Rising Virtuosos" series introducing Korea's next generation of talented and accomplished classical musicians. The series will give readers an intimate look at the exceptional artistry and passion of young musicians who are making their mark on the international classical music scene. --Ed.