Pianist Son Yeol-eum feels at home playing Mozart

Pianist Son Yeol-eum showcases a part of the Mozart’s Piano Sonatas during the press conference held on Tuesday to introduce her new album, “Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas,” held at the Kumho Art Hall Yonsei in western Seoul.

Pianist Son Yeol-eum, playing all 18 of Mozart’s piano sonatas, feels like she’s finally “back home.”

“When I play the sonatas, I can feel how diverse Mozart's music is,” Son said during a press conference held Tuesday at the Kumho Art Hall Yonsei in Seodaemun District, western Seoul, as she introduced her new album “Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas,” a six-CD box set that is set to be released Friday. It will be released through Naïve, a French label Son signed with in January.

Due to her role as an artistic director of a classical music festival Music in PyeongChang for the past five years, Son says she had been performing pieces that were more unfamiliar to her and was looking for new a repertoire for the past few years. She stepped down from the post last December and passed her baton to cellist Yang Sung-won.

Mozart is a composer who has never left her heart, but Son said the opportunity to record the complete piano sonatas this time came as a coincidence, like Mozart's music, which Son describes as something that has “fallen from the sky.”

“I was scheduling a time with the people at the Tongyeong Concert Hall in South Gyeongsang and recording engineer Choi Jin for another recording I did last year and learned that both the venue and producer Choi had two days of free time, which is very, very rare,” she said. “So I immediately asked them both to save that slot for me to record my album.”

Son said she then thought about what she wanted to record, and soon realized that there was only one composer whose works she could play on such short notice.

Son is more than familiar with Mozart and is recognized for her profound insights and intelligent interpretations.

The album cover of Son's new release, "Mozart Complete Piano Sonatas" [NAIVE]

A YouTube video of Son’s performance of Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 21” that she performed at the 2011 International Tchaikovsky Competition has been watched more than 21 million times as of Thursday. She also performed the piece at the 2019 BBC Proms and also recorded Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K.467” with Sir Neville Marriner (1924-2016), the late conductor and violinist who supervised Mozart's music scores for the Oscar-winning 1984 film “Amadeus.”

“His music seems to be created very naturally. What I mean is that someone didn’t toil and moil or bend over backward to create this,” she said. “And all I simply did was take advantage of this and express it freely and spontaneously as much as possible.”

The 36-old pianist has an array of albums on her discography, including Mozart's piano concerto album she did with Onyz in 2018 and Schumann and Brahms sonatas with Decca in 2016.

"I don't really think about getting recognized when I'm still alive," said Son. "When I listen to the music of artists who have passed away, I feel the immortality of the message left in their music. So I came to think that artists are evaluated after they die. I think that's why I've been so focused on recording so many albums."

Son will launch a tour across the country with the new album from May to June, stopping at eight cities including Seoul, Wonju in Gangwon, Tongyeong and Goyang in Geonggi and Gimhae in South Gyeongsang.