Yoonie (Yoonjung) Han of South Korea had her debut recital in 2010 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. In 2011, she won first prize at the Washington International competition. They, then, sponsored her recital in 2012 at the Kennedy Center (reviewed by Robert Battey in the Washington Post), and as a result of winning the Fulbright Concerto Competition, she’s performed in major American cities, as well as London, Hamburg, Munich, and Berlin. This last December, Yoonie was “honored” as a Steinway Artist, joining the likes of Billy Joel, Rachmaninoff, and Arthur Rubinstein who favor the iconic handmade pianos from the 159-year-old Steinway & Sons.
HP: When did you start playing piano?
Yoonie: I started playing when I was 3 (I had a tiger mama!), and came to United States when I was 15 by myself, and attended Juilliard pre-college, Curtis Institute of Music, Juilliard School, Université de Montreal, and now completing my doctoral degree at the SUNY Stony Brook.
HP: How many months a year do you travel?
Yoonie: I travel 2/3 of the year, and I love it! Just this month, I was in New York, Amsterdam, Vienna, Slovakia, and yesterday, played Rhapsody in Blue in the Tupelo, Mississippi.
HP: Any favorite cities?
Yoonie: My favorite city would be New York (my home). For me, my tiny studio in Manhattan is better than 5-star hotel in Paris! My place is very small…it only fits a grand piano, bed, laptop desk, and I use the space under the piano for a closet…!! But I travel so much that no other place is better than my own.
HP: What is something that makes a day “wonderful” for you? What do you wish you had more time for?
Yoonie: If I had more time at home, I would love to cook all day, and get a little puppy. I love cooking and always want to have a puppy, but because of my travels, it’s impossible. Also, my cooking skill has not been improving since I have been out of practice, and spoiled from exposure to top restaurants all over the world!
HP: Do you have favorite pieces or composers?
Yoonie: My favorite music to play would be Spanish music. I know it sounds strange that a young pianist from Korea should have a passionate love for Spanish music. It sounds strange even to me! But I do, and I feel a special and deep connection to the music of Spain. When I was 17, I performed in a music festival in Madrid, and on my very first day there, my passport was stolen. I had planned to leave right away for the U.S., but suddenly I was stranded for two whole months in Madrid. So I stayed alone in Madrid, and since I had nothing else that I could do, I explored the Spanish culture. And, to my surprise, I fell in love. I fell in love with flamenco, with the Spanish language, with the food, even with the Goya Museum. I was so in love with everything Spanish, that when, after two months, word finally came that I had a visa to the U.S., I was heartbroken. Something in my soul had become Spanish. And now, for me, when I play the music of Spain, it calls up for me the magical scenery, the flavors that I tasted, the sounds that I heard; everything in Spain that became in those two months so much a part of me. It would make me very happy to study more intensely Spanish music.
HP: Have you been to Pasadena before?
Yoonie: It’s my first time coming to Pasadena. Being in a new city always excites me! It’s a pity for us (that) when we get to a new city, we focus on practicing for concerts; after concerts, they want you to leave…we don’t get to see much. However, I always keep a little travel guide in my purse, and download ‘trip advisor’ app on my phone, hoping that I get to see a little before I hop on to the next trip (concert).
As a Steinway Artist, Yoonie will perform this Sunday, May 5th, at Steinway Piano Gallery in Pasadena. She’ll be playing a program of “music transcribed for piano, including her own transcription of the first Liszt piano concerto and a spectacular rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
Magdalena Baczewska, writing for the New York Concert Review (4/16/2010) wrote that Yoonie’s performance of “Los requirebros” was “filled with both joy and the requisite flirtation. She showed understanding of multi-layered textures and an admirable sensitivity to the counterpoint and key structure, at the same time masterfully displaying the shimmering figurations.”
Albeniz – Godowski, Tango
Enrique Granados, Goyescas, “Quejas, ó La maja y el ruiseñor” (maiden and nightingale)
Niccolò Paganini – Liszt, Paganini Etude no. 3, “La campanella”
Franz Liszt – Han, Piano Concerto no. 1 in E flat Major
Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue
Yoonie Han at Steinway
Sunday, May 5th, 6 p.m.
Free to the public
Steinway Piano Gallery
150 E. Colorado Blvd., Ste. 101, Pasadena 91105, between Arroyo Pkwy & Marengo
Steinway.com or call 626.744.7774