Some Words with JINSANG LEE,
1st Prizewinner of the 2008 Hong Kong International Piano Competition
Life changed for the Korean pianist Jinsang Lee, now 29, when he won First Prize in the 2008 Hong Kong International Piano Competition. Part of the prize included performing Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto in
“I actually hate piano competitions,” the youthful pianist, who looks just out of his teenaged years, surprisingly admitted. And he jokingly added, “I either get eliminated in the first round, or go all the way to win the First Prize. There is nothing in between!” Winning in competitions is important because it provides young pianists with a series of concert engagements, which amounts to a tangible performing career.
Within the past year, Lee has performed 80 concerts in Europe and
After his performance of four concertante works by Chopin in Hong Kong, he flies to his hometown in
Chopin’s piano music has been with Lee since the age of eleven. The first Chopin he played was the Étude in A minor (Op.10 No.2), an extremely demanding piece that even adult pianists fight shy of. “The reason was that my hands were still too small for the arpeggios of the first Étude in C major, and so my teacher started me on the second one!” It was not just a case of building technical proficiency but also honing musicality. When asked what Chopin’s music meant to him, he was stumped for a while, offering “It’s so difficult to express as I speak with music, rather than with words,” and then continuing, “While Chopin is known for his warmth and lyrical charm, there lies a hidden inner fire of unbelievable intensity that even surpasses composers such as Liszt.” He further explains, “The Polish are very natural, sincere and open people who often speak from their hearts. Chopin’s music is like that. It can never be played mathematically. It must come from the heart, and less from the brain.”
The first concerto he learnt was Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.1, at the age of fourteen, but he only got to perform it publicly this year, in