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Pianist Hayato Sumino weaves unusual way to classical acclaim

[Herald Interview] Sumino, known as Cateen on YouTube, to take stage in Seoul on Monday

By Park Ga-young

Published : July 20, 2023 - 17:48

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Pianist Hayato Sumino (Ryuya Amao) Pianist Hayato Sumino (Ryuya Amao)

YouTube fame and classical music acclaim are both significant achievements in their own right but Japanese pianist Hayato Sumino, who is set to perform in South Korea for his second recital next week, can lay claim to both.

Sumino, also known by his name on YouTube, Cateen, not only has 1.24 million subscribers on YouTube, but has also been acknowledged in prestigious competitions. The 28-year-old was born with a talent for playing the piano, but instead of choosing to formally study music, Sumino, who also excelled at mathematics, went on to study science.

“In reality, music and the fields of mathematics and engineering are closely related disciplines, and I feel fortunate to be an interpreter who can understand a more intimate connection between music and these subjects compared to other musicians,” Sumimo said in an email interview earlier this week.

His YouTube channel featuring piano arrangements of pop songs, or pop-oriented arrangements of serious classics has garnered more than 160 million views.

"For YouTube, I believe the most crucial aspect is to avoid creating content that is similar to what others are already doing. It's essential to produce unique content that cannot be easily imitated, while also finding personal enjoyment and value in it," he said.

Meanwhile, as he was pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Information Science and Technology from 2018 to 2020, he won the Grand Prix of the Special Class of the PTNA Piano Competition in 2018, the third prize at the Lyon International Piano Competition in 2019.

In 2020, on the heels of these achievements, he released his full-length album "Hayatosm" and got the confidence to persuade his parents that being a pianist would allow him to lead a better life than being an IT engineer.

As if those accomplishments were enough to prove what he could do as a pianist, he reached the semifinal at the XVIII International Chopin Piano Competition in 2021.

"Classical music had been the genre I encountered the most from a young age and it serves as the foundation for expressing myself," he said.

Pianist Hayato Sumino (Ryuya Amao) Pianist Hayato Sumino (Ryuya Amao)

So when he takes the stage on July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Lotte Concert Hall, Sumino will introduce a repertoire that mixes his own compositions with classical music that has inspired him.

The pianist will perform timeless piano pieces for the recital including: Gulda’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Minor; Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring BWV 147 and Partita No. 2 in C Minor BWV 826; Rameau’s Pieces de clavecin "La Poule" and "Les Sauvages" and Kapustin’s Eight Concert Etudes Op. 40. He will offer his own arrangement of Bach’s Invention Nos. 4, 13 and 14.

He will also introduce three piano pieces that he himself wrote: “New Birth,” “Recollection,” "Human Universe” and “Big Cat Waltz," which is dedicated to his cat.

"A big and fat cat shows a nimble motion. I wanted to show this contrast musically," he said.

His own compositions might be a sneak peek to what he will offer as a musician in the future.

Sumino said he aspires to uphold the longstanding tradition of classical music while also updating it and enabling it to evolve. "I aim to continue playing the piano, study composition and arranging, and eventually become an artist capable of creating works for film music and piano with orchestras."