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Seong-Jin Cho won the 2015 Chopin Competition at the age of 21, becoming the first South Korean winner of this accolade. He also won third prize in the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition and is currently a student of Michel Béroff at the Paris Conservatoire. This debut disc features Cho’s live performances from the recent Chopin Competition.

His sound in the first of the Op 28 Preludeshas warmth and clarity. A sure sense of texture and line characterises this playing. Cho is also capable of locating the profundity at the heart of Chopin without overdoing the rubato, and nowhere is this better heard than in the A major Prelude. He finds transparency within turbulence, too (F-sharp minor).

Not everything is in place: the B-flat minor speaks mostly of superficial competition playing, while the F minor is brash (something which could also be levelled at the Polonaise, despite its perfect left-hand octaves). Perhaps these traits point to the faults of the Nocturne, which while it contains magical moments also has a sudden and unconvincing surge towards an artificial climax.

The Sonata is given a concentrated, compact performance that gets better as it progresses. The first movement is perhaps too pressed. The contrasts of the second movement give way to a ‘Marche funèbre’ that includes moments of great beauty. But it is the finale that contains the finest playing of the disc: the touch is flighty but the conception fully thought-through.

A mixed debut disc, then, from a pianist who shows huge promise.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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