Minsoo Sohn’s recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations has been described by Vivien Schweitzer of the New York Times as “poetic and radiant.”
On Saturday, the MSU College of Music assistant professor will play the Goldberg Variations in a concert at the Zankel Hall inside Carnegie Hall.
The young pianist won the prestigious Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary in 2006.
Sohn talked with WKAR’s Scott Pohl about joining the faculty at MSU, and his plans for the Carnegie Hall concert.
MINSOO SOHN:I graduated from my studies, and then I was performing and I was travelling many different places, and also during that period I was thinking of someday teaching. Learning from my teachers, I was lucky enough to have met two teachers who were so influential for everything I did, not just the piano. I knew that teaching, through music, can have an impact in your life. So, that was something that I was always looking to, and I got to audition for their search for the vacant position, and here I am! I’m here.
SCOTT POHL:And when was that?
SOHN:This is my third year, so two years ago.
PREPARING TO PLAY AT CARNEGIE HALL
POHL:Describe for me if you would the process of preparing for a performance of this sort.
SOHN:I take every concert equally serious, whether it is a small house concert or you could be playing at the biggest venue in the world. My mind set is always to be just a messenger of music, and try to be myself. In that regard, I think I have a pretty good idea of doing it for over 30 years, I guess. I just hope that their musical spirit will take me through the whole thing.
A CONNECTION WITH THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS?
POHL:Do you feel some strong personal connection to the Goldberg Variations? Is that something that adds to your ability to perform it, do you think?
SOHN:I wouldn’t say it’s a personal feeling. Of course, I do have a personal feeling, but I think (the) more important thing here is the Bach, himself. It’s great, great music, and I just fell in love, since I was so young. I was so naïve, and I just didn’t know whether even I could play that piece, and I was thinking, thinking, this is a monster piece! You have to play crosshand and all these tricky fingers! And then one day, I just decided to play it. I just could not NOT play, so it took me many, many years of doing it over and doing it over and then leave it, coming back, leave it, coming back, and bring it to life again and again and again! I think you never reach the end of it, but I love the process.
So again, I don’t know whether it’s my personal special feeling. I feel very attached to the music, but I feel the same even when I’m playing Brahms or even when I’m playing Webern. It’s all music, so yes and no.
POHL:What has gathered some attention is the Goldberg Variations portion of your concert. What else are you playing in the program?
SOHN:I’m playing the Webern Variations for Piano Op. 27, and the second piece will be the Brahms Handel Variations Op. 24.