Calling all music enthusiasts! 23rd April 2013 sees the London debut of Korean born classical pianist Klara Min. With many gushing about her fabulous performance style and on-stage presence, we can’t wait for her performance at the much sought-after Wigmore Hall. New Yorker Klara has performed all over North America, her native South Korea and a number of European countries and it’s nice to see her finally making a stop in London. Here we have a little interview with the classical pianist where you can find out a bit more about Klara, not only just about her life and inspirations but also about some of the extraordinary work and projects she is also involved with too.
1. What influenced you to become a pianist?
Music itself – nobody has ever forced me to do anything. My mother is a piano teacher who graduated from Yonsei University with a major in composition so I became familiar with piano sounds as a child and picked it up myself. I enjoyed the sound and wanted to play.
2. We’ve spoken to many artists who went to study abroad and have often spoken about how different the studying culture was between Koreans and Westerners. What was it like for you studying abroad?
Although New York is a cosmopolitan city, which appreciates and accepts diverse ethnicity, it took a long time for me to feel that this is my home and where I belong. I still feel that cultural barrier even in a city like New York. But my experiences in different cultures helped me form and discover who I am and what I am about. Asians grow up with a very different cultural background, but the difference is getting smaller and smaller as cultural exchanges have become very vivid and active nowadays. After all, human nature is the same regardless of manners, cultures and conventions. Appreciating different cultures is broadening the communication tools in your life.
3. How hard was it for you as a Korean Pianist to make it big in a foreign country?
It’s very hard to make a living as a musician, and that is the bottom line for most musicians regardless of ethnicity. I hadn’t realized it until Korea had a severe financial crisis and my parents could no longer support me. It was a complete change in my life. Since then, I have stood alone and started working for the first time in my life. It was a constant struggle for survival: I worked as a tutor, church accompanist, and bartender and learned how life can be challenging – just like most musicians would agree. But I never thought that I was going through hardships because I had a dream, and I was in love with music, through which I was eager to express myself, to reach out. I just never had a time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t think I ever stayed in an exclusively Korean community, either. I always wanted to make friends from different nations and was very curious about getting to know different perspectives on life. That helped me. I never thought of NY as a foreign city.
4. We understand you are currently residing in New York, would you call yourself a New Yorker or do you miss living in South Korea?
Yes I call myself a New Yorker. New York is my home, where I belong. I have spent more than half of my life in New York City. I do miss my family in Korea and I visit my country as often as I can. I am Korean, and that fact does not change no matter where I live.
1. Do you still get nervous before concerts?
Definitely! The degree of nervousness depends on my body conditions, level of preparation, and all the other little factors. Intimate proximity with audience in a small hall makes me more nervous than a vast space of the large.
2. You’ve performed in America, Europe and South Korea. How do you find the reception of audiences differs in different countries?
I think, generally speaking, European audiences are very sincere and keen listeners. Classical music grew within their culture and it lies deeply in their background. In Asia, I find many young people in the audience and this is a great thing. Both in America and in Europe, it is quite hard to find young people in audience. Audiences in Asian countries are extremely enthusiastic and full of curiosity. But of course I think that New York is one place where you can find the toughest critics.
1. What is it about Chopin’s works and Polish music that you feel drawn to?
Chopin is my first love in music. How can one not love Chopin? His music is a perfect rapport of science and emotion. I like Poland and Polish manners. I can’t speak for individuals, but in general, I think that Polish people have charming characters and their history is similar to that of Koreans: We were always invaded by two strong countries next door, nevertheless we kept our pride, but because of the history, there is a certain kind of sadness in our culture. In Korea we call it “Han”, and although it is in a very different manner, I find it in Chopin’s music too.
2. What other instruments do you play or wish you could play? Would you ever consider learning a traditional Korean instrument?
I play flute, but I wish I could play violin as well. I wish I were a singer, too. I tried gayageum once, but it was too difficult for me.
3. It’s been said that “Works of hidden gems made by Korean composers are revealed to the world by your fingertips” Do you aim to make Korean compositions more well-known in the world?
Yes. I think that as Korean pianist, it is my duty to promote our own country’s composers who deserve to be known to the world.
Check out this video where Klara Min talks about her love for Chopin and for a little preview of Klara’s of her playing. For more videos make sure you check out her Youtube Channel
1. You launched the New York Concert Artists & Associates. How did you manage to bring all musicians together to collaborate?
They are all my friends and colleagues. I love to share my thoughts with my fellow musicians and grow together in music. Music is about communication and it is important for me to get to know my colleagues and other musicians about their struggles, musical interest, innovative and creative thinking in music. In a big picture, it helps me grow to be a well-rounded musician as well.
2. You’re involved in the “We are the Woman” project for the United Nations. How did you get involved in this?
I received an official letter of invitation to be a part of this wonderful project. It is aiming to save the lives of 16 millions women all over the world, and I am honoured to be a part of this meaningful project.
About upcoming London performance:
1. How do you feel about performing in London for the first time?
I fell in love with London the first time I visited. I think that Londoners are very kind and sincere people and most of all, they appreciate classical music, so I am thrilled to meet the London audience. I hope we can share the beauty of music together in empathy.
2. How did you select the pieces you’ll play for your debut performance in London?
The program consists of Schumann’s Arabeske, Op. 18, Fantasiestuecke Op. 12, three mazurkas by Chopin, as well as his Sonata in B minor and the UK premiere of Cursive by a living American composer, Sean Hickey. These are all my favorite works. I care much about acoustic when I choose a program and I think that Wigmore Hall has a beautiful acoustic. I look forward to performing there.
3. Have you been to the UK before? Apart from performing, what do you look forward to most about your upcoming trip?
Firstly, I would love to meet London audiences one on one! I have been to London a few times, but only very briefly and didn’t have much time to look around. I’d love to walk around the small streets with so many cute stores, and the weather will be just perfect in late April!
Well here’s to hoping the UK brightens up a bit for her visit! We’ve fallen in love with Klara’s passion about life and music already, and Klara is super keen to connect with UK music lovers so if you want to join Klara at her debut UK performance, make sure you book your tickets now via the Wigmore official website. The performance is on Tuesday 23rd April 2013 at 7:30pm with tickets ranging from only £10-£20.
Thank you so much to Klara for answering our questions and we hope she has a fantastic concert and fun time staying in London.