14 Mar 2018

Esther Yoo – Violin Virtuoso

0 Comment

Can we just take a moment to say how excited we are to have violin sensation, Esther Yoo, join us here in Hawaii for her debut with the HSO on Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18.

Esther Yoo, the young American-Korean violinist, is the first ever Artist-in-Residence with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – a year long residency, which started in 2018. And she first came to international attention in 2010 when she became the youngest prizewinner of the 10th International Sibelius Violin Competition (aged 16).

In addition to her Hawaii debut in 2017/18 season, Yoo also debuted with Orchestre National de Belgique, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Vancouver and Bay Atlantic.

What makes this performance so special is Yoo’s local ties to our beautiful islands. Her father is from Hawaii and her grandparents still live here, and it’s been a dream of Yoo’s since she was a child to perform in Hawaii with the symphony.

We had the pleasure of talking story with Yoo – about music, mentors and the importance of reaching younger audiences.


HSO: How did you become involved in music?

EY: My maternal grandmother was a pianist and everyone in my family has a great appreciation for music (not only classical) and diverse forms of art. Almost everyone learned an instrument as they were growing up. My mother, for example, played the piano, sang in a choir and played the flute, while my father learned the violin as a young boy. When I was growing up we always had music playing in the house thanks to my parents’ extensive CD collection, and I was fortunate that they took me to hear great concerts in venues such as Carnegie Hal and Lincoln Center from a very early age, which really inspired me to take up an instrument myself.


HSO: How much time do you spend during the year on the road traveling and performing?

EY: The majority of my year is spent travelling for performances and tours. I love the life on the road, getting to meet new people and experience different cultures. 


HSO: Where is home for you now?

EY: My home base is between Brussels and London.


Esther Yoo- Zen Trio
Photo: Marco Borggreve

HSO: Who are your role models and influencers?

EY: The headstrong women in my family are great role models! 


HSO: Are you continuing to study with anyone? How much time do you spend rehearsing/practicing?

EY: I study with Ana Chumachenco at the Musikhochschule in Munich. I have been working with her since my childhood, she’s like my musical mother!


HSO: Do you have any studio work in progress (or recently finished)? 

EY: I feel very fortunate to have released three albums on the prestigious label Deutsche Grammophon. My debut album was a recording of the Sibelius and Glazunov Violin Concertos and shorter works of the composers with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Maestro Vladimir Ashkenazy (2016), an all-Tchaikovsky album with the same musical partners (2017) and an album of the Brahms and Dvorak Piano Trios released with the Z.E.N. Trio (Zhang Zuo, Esther Yoo, Narek Hakhnazaryan) (2017).

I have recently been involved in a very exciting film project On Chesil Beach, based on the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan and starring Golden Globes winner and Academy Award nominee, Saoirse Ronan. It is an honor to be the featured violinist on the soundtrack, which we recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. The movie and soundtrack album will be released this May.


HSO: What upcoming performances do you have planned for 2018?

EY: This year is full of exciting performances including debuts with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra, Copenhagen Philharmonic and a debut at Aspen Music Festival this summer with the Z.E.N. Trio, as well as return performances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra.


HSO: You play the 1704 “Prince Obolensky” Stradivarius. Tell us a bit about this instrument.

EY: I feel very lucky to be playing on the beautiful “Prince Obolensky” Strad which has generously been on loan to me for the past few years. It’s an instrument that I have evolved with and the sound of the instrument has transformed as well. It’s such a pleasure to continuously discover its’ magical colors. This instrument has really become an essential part of my “voice” now.


HSO: You were the prizewinner of the 10th International Sibelius Violin Competition, a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and are currently the Artist-in-Residence with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. What have these opportunities given you as an artist a) to grown 2) to learn? What’s next on your radar?

EY: All of these opportunities have been very important stepping stones in my career and I learned so much from every experience. The BBC NGA scheme was fantastic as I got to meet many talented young musicians and even formed the Z.E.N. Trio with my fellow NGA friends, pianist Zhang Zuo and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan. It was also very helpful to gain recording experience by recording for BBC Radio3 and to perform with the various BBC orchestras all over the U.K.

It is a great honour to be the RPO’s first ever Artist-in-Residence this year. We have many concerts planned throughout the year in and out of London with various repertoire and conductors. It’s special to form a musical bond with an orchestra by performing with them several times and getting to know the musicians personally too. We are also putting great importance on outreach programs, specifically mental health for young people, which I strongly advocate.


Esther Yoo- Zen Trio
Photo: Marco Borggreve

HSO: You are performing Glazunov’s Violin Concerto in A minor. What are your thoughts and feelings about this piece? What can our concertgoers who are unfamiliar with this piece expect? What are some of your favorite parts, and why?

EY: The Glazunov Concerto is very close to my heart, especially as it’s a concerto I recorded for my debut album. I was fortunate enough to work on this concerto with the late Maestro Lorin Maazel who was a mentor of mine. I have always felt that it is an underplayed concerto; there’s so much character and brilliance in the piece with Russian dance and folk elements as well as great romanticism. The instrumentation is fantastic as well and there’s so much dialogue going on. The three movements flowing together is very special.


HSO: What is your favorite performance piece, and why?

EY: I love performing any of Bach or Shostakovich’s works. Very contrasting composers, I know! Bach always brings me peace and I love discovering the mysterious darkness and depth in Shostakovich’s works.


HSO: How do you feel we can reach younger audiences with classical music, and encourage them to attend recitals and symphony performances?

EY: I think there’s so much that can be done these days to reach out to and educate younger audiences about classical music through digital media and social platforms. I’m happy to see many of my colleagues doing a great job of reaching out through various platforms. I have observed that young people really do enjoy classical music but often don’t have enough knowledge about it or feel that they don’t have enough access to the artists. I think there’s a great opportunity for and a certain responsibility now from artists, orchestras, music organisations to use the platforms we have these days to change the perception of classical music and make it more accessible and inviting.


HSO: You’ve had a very exciting career for someone so young, what are you most excited about in the next few years?

EY: I’m looking forward to collaborating with great musicians and orchestras in the coming seasons and making debuts in various countries. The release of the movie “On Chesil Beach” and its soundtrack this May are most exciting at the moment. I’m also looking forward to working on important projects to help young people struggling with mental health issues. 


HSO: What would you like to say to young musicians who look up to you and all you’ve achieved?

EY: I’m extremely grateful for the support from many enthusiastic young musicians. I love sharing music with my audiences and encouraging young people to enjoy music and share their passion for it as well. I believe that there is no “magic key” to success, nor is there an ideal of success. I think everyone has their own unique path so following your own passions and ambitions is most important.


Tickets are still available for this powerful Masterwork concert, featuring violin sensation Esther Yoo.

Saturday, March 17 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, March 18 at 4:00 pm.

$15 Student Rush and $10 Active Military tickets are on sale now. Call 94-MUSIC for more information.