Korean star Sunwook Kim set to shine at Henrietta Barnett gig


Sunwook-Kim - Credit: Archant

Catch this young Korean star while you can, says Michael White.

Back in 2006 one of the world’s leading piano competitions, the Leeds had its youngest ever winner: an 18 year-old Korean called Sunwook Kim who spoke no English, grappled with the fact that no one could pronounce his name (the ‘w’ is silent), and flew back to Seoul immediately afterwards.

But keen-eared people at the Mill Hill Music Club took due note of the name, tracked him down, and offered him what then became his London debut a year later. And as you never forget things like that, he’s been back for MHMC concerts regularly ever since - even though his career is now so big that Henrietta Barnett School Hall in the Garden Suburb isn’t where you expect to find him.

Next month he’ll be there for the fourth time. And it’s considerably easier for him to get to NWLondon now because he’s relocated from Korea to the UK - where he’s settled down and married with a baby son.

Meeting up with him recently, I asked if the baby didn’t disturb his practice, to which he replied that it was quite the opposite: “he’s so used to hearing me that playing the piano is the only way I can get him to sleep”.

But there aren’t many who sleep through Kim’s performances. One of the most dynamic young players around, with an exceptional maturity for someone barely 27, his latest CD - a Deutsche Grammphon disc of the piano concerto by his fellow Korean Unsuk Chin – has just won aprize in the BBC Music Magazine Awards. And his touring schedule is formidable.

The programme he plays for MHMC – Bach, Scriabin and Schubert – he’ll have delivered on the day before in Istanbul. Then, with scarcely a pause, he goes to China, Japan and Germany, where he has a special relationship with the Beethovenhaus in Bonn that gives him privileged access to the manuscripts there. Something he’s making use of, because he’s planning a complete cycle of the Beethoven sonatas for some, as yet unspecified, time in the future.

Most Read

Meanwhile, make the most of him while he’s prepared to make it up to Henrietta Barnett School.

The concert is May 10 at 7.30pm. Booking: 020 8959 3866