By M.L. Rantala
Seong-Jin Cho made his Chicago debut in a stunning concert in Hyde Park on Friday night. The Korean pianist, the first person from his country to win the Chopin International Competition, put his mastery on display, performing works from Bach to Mussorgsky. Members of the Korean community were significantly represented at the concert, which found Mandel Hall packed to the rafters.
Cho is only 24, but plays with depth and great technical skill. His rapid passage work is fluid, clear, and dazzling. He is a master of mood and has a silky legato. He is confident but not arrogant, technically brilliant yet not overly showy. He is a mild mannered man with prodigious talent who provided a thrilling evening of music.
He opened his concert, the first half made up of “fantasies” (music creating imaginary worlds or ideas), with Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor. The trippingly fast lines were breathtaking. He knew when to draw on angels and when to listen to devils. He placed a pregnant pause before moving from fantasy to fugue and then built up great power all the while maintaining clarity.