Violin virtuoso Ye-Eun Choi heads for North Wales music festival

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One of the world’s top violinists who made her concert debut at the age of eight is heading for a top music festival.

South Korean virtuoso Ye-Eun Choi will take the audience at the North Wales International Music Festival on a journey from East to West during the final concert on Saturday, September 30.

South Korean virtuoso Ye-Eun Cho

Ye-Eun has established a growing reputation as one of the most promising violin talents to emerge anywhere in the world in recent years and the performance at St Asaph Cathedral will be her first ever in Wales.

The festival, which starts on Saturday, September 16, and ends on Saturday, September 30, is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and the Colwinston Charitable Trust.

Among the other stars of the festival will be singers from Welsh National Opera, vocal group VOCES8, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, baroque instrumentalists Red Priest, composer Robat Arwyn, tenor Rhys Meirion, Ensemble Cymru, the National Youth Brass Band of Wales and Italian pianist Federico Colli.

The resident orchestra is NEW Sinfonia which was established by brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy who were regulars at the festival’s masterclasses and workshops when they were younger.

Ye-Eun Choi, 28, now lives in Munich where she studied at the Musik Hochschule with Ana Chumachenco and is mentored by top German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

In 2013 she received the European Culture Award for new artists.

Ahead of the concert, which is being sponsored by the arts-loving care organisation Pendine Park, she said: “I have played and performed in England on several occasions but strangely never in London. However, this will be my first visit to Wales and I am really looking forward to what will be an amazing concert.

“I will be performing the Violin Concerto No 1 by Bruch, it’s a favourite work and very popular. It’s such a romantic piece that I first started to play aged 13 or 14. It’s a work that really is such a lovely piece and it’s not hard to understand or get the melody.”

Choi says her parents and close family were left somewhat in shock when she announced she was moving to Germany to study violin at the age of 18.

She said: “I started playing aged seven and played my first concert in Seoul about a year later. I studied with my first teacher, Nam Yoon Kim, in South Korea for about 10 years.

“I then played at a festival in Switzerland and was invited to study in Munich. I moved to Germany to study in Munich, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

“My parents and whole family, who still live in Seoul, were a bit shocked. I have a younger sister who still lives in Seoul and cares for my parents. I do get home three or four times a year but moving to Germany was really important for my violin studies.”

“I’ve played in America, in San Francisco, Washington and Pittsburgh among other cities after actually playing my debut concert with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009. I’ve also performed in Canada, Russia, Japan, China and right across Europe and, of course, I have played many concerts in Korea.”

She added: “I now play a Guadagnini violin that is owned by a private individual in Korea and is loaned to me. I have been playing it now for 18 months. It’s taken a lot of time for us to get to know each other.

“Each violin is very different you have to build a relationship with any instrument. There has to be a dialogue between the musician and the instrument.

“I practice every day, unless I’m travelling, and the instrument is my constant companion, it’s never far from my side. Normally I practice for four to five hours a day, sometimes longer as and when I can. It’s what you must do if you are to achieve perfection.

“When I travel, whether on an aircraft or in a car I have my violin with me. In hotels, it’s always by my side. I don’t know its value but to me it’s more important, more valuable, than any amount of money. It’s a part of me, the most important part of me.”

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: “We are delighted to again be supporting the North Wales International Music Festival because it is such a remarkable and brilliant event.

“The festival attracts truly world class performers to the Vale of Clwyd every year and this year’s programme is a case in point with artistes of the calibre of Ye-Eun Choi set to delight the discerning audience.

“The aims of the festival perfectly match our ethos at Pendine Park where the arts in general and music in particular are central to everything we do to enrich lives across the generations.”

Ann Atkinson, the festival’s artistic director, is delighted to have the opportunity to welcome a violinist of the calibre of Ye-Eun Choi to St Asaph.

She said: “The theme of this year’s festival is Journeys and Ye-Eun Choi’s journey from East to West to pursue her career as a world-class solo and chamber violinist fits that theme perfectly.

“Ye-Eun Choi has performed with some of the world’s very best orchestras and it’s such a privilege to be able to welcome her to our festival. She will be performing with our NEW Sinfonia resident orchestra.

“Attracting a violinist of her calibre is a real coup for the festival and I’d encourage classical music lovers to get a ticket and come along for what is sure to be a magical evening and an opportunity to see and hear one of the world’s top violinists perform.”

She added: “We have managed to secure appearances from some wonderful musicians and voices for this year’s festival. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Red Priest again.

“The early music quartet will perform their Gypsy Baroque Fantasy while one of Wales’ top composers, Robat Arwyn will be joined by tenor Rhys Meirion and Cȏr Rhuthun and Cȏr Ysgol Pen Barras for what will be a wonderful evening of music celebrating Robat’s own musical journey.”

She added: “And with performances by world class classical guitarists The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, who will be performing a concert of music from around the world and concerts featuring the Welsh National Opera and the a cappella group VOCES8 it’s going to be a truly wonderful and amazing festival.”

To find out more about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com. Tickets are available online and from Theatr Clwyd – 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames in St Asaph – 01745 582929.