This Fall, violinist Esther Yoo made her U.S. debut with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and then traveled north for her Canadian debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her next stop is Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, where she will perform Bruch's First Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä. We had the chance to get to know a little bit about her, why she loves Bruch's Concerto and much more about her very full musical career.
What are you looking forward to about your upcoming performance in Minneapolis with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra?
I’m very excited about performing with the Minnesota Orchestra and making my Minneapolis debut. They are an orchestra that I have admired for many years and I’m glad that we have one of my favorite violin concertos programmed. I had the great pleasure of working with Maestro Vänskä in Iceland for the first time at the start of the year. We played the Sibelius Violin Concerto, obviously a very contrasting concerto to the Bruch, and it was a wonderful experience. I’m looking forward to another great musical adventure with Maestro Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra!
What is personally meaningful, exciting or challenging for you about this concerto?
The Bruch Concerto was one of the first major violin concertos that I ever learned so it holds a very special place in my heart. I remember coming back to this piece after not having played it since my childhood and being awed by its beauty, lyricism and brilliance. It is a true classic in the violin repertoire and I love remembering how I interpreted this music when I was a kid and how my expression and the emotions I translate into the piece have evolved now.
How would you describe Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in ten words or less?
Captivating, romantic, passionate, nostalgic, lyrical, stormy, brilliant.
What is your favorite performance venue?
I have to say that my favorite (and the coolest) venue I have ever performed at is the Royal Albert Hall in London. I made my BBC Proms debut there this summer and I had only ever seen the hall through photos and videos before my first rehearsal. I was expecting it to be big but my jaw literally dropped when I stepped into the hall and processed the phenomenal size and grandeur of the venue. It was mind-boggling to play for nearly 6,000 people but it was also very thrilling and special to be able to share my music with so many people at once.
What about your most unusual performance venue?
I’ve experienced several unusual venues but one of the most memorable ones was a church in the Czech Republic that I performed at around the beginning of my career. The church wasn’t unusual but the fact that it was winter and they had forgotten to turn on the heating beforehand was! It was literally -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees F) inside the church and I had to play with fingerless gloves on!
What is your earliest musical memory?
My earliest musical memory is of me tinkering around on a toy xylophone with rainbow colored keys which I loved and would lug all around the house! This soon evolved into me fiddling around on the piano and then my parents introduced me to a piano teacher at the age of four.
What is your favorite musical memory?
I have too many favorite memories! Each one is unique and meaningful. To sum up a few, working with the late Maestro Lorin Maazel was something I'll never forget as it shaped me into the musician I am today. Releasing my debut album on Deutsche Grammophon earlier this year was literally a dream come true. Any moment that I spend with the Z.E.N. Trio, which I recently formed with my friends pianist Zhang Zuo (who performed with Minnesota Orchestra in Sommerfest 2016 ) and cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan, is a blast. And my Proms debut this summer was one of the most exciting experiences of my career so far.
When you get a chance to attend a concert as an audience member instead of as the soloist, what or who do you love to listen to?
I enjoy all types of performances and try to attend whatever/whenever I can. Most often I’ll try to get in to the second half of whichever concert I’m playing in, to listen to the Symphony programmed after intermission. It’s extremely inspiring to go to operas and ballets as well and I always wish I had time to go more frequently.
Music has been a main source of comfort to me and a natural method of communication from a very early age. I used to be very shy as a child and expressing myself through music was a safe portal of expression for me. As I grew older I discovered how I could transform the sound of my instrument to be unique and it fascinated me that I could create a “voice” through music. I also appreciate how there’s an endless amount of learning and discovering to do through music. But most importantly, it is an art that can be enjoyed universally, without any borders and a language that can be felt and understood by all.
What else should our audience know about you?
I’m a very curious person so I have many interests and I like to experience new things. I love anything that has to do with food so I enjoy cooking whenever I’m at home, I’m an avid writer and I try to make time for sports such as swimming, running, yoga and horse-back riding.
I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to travel around the world, to meet so many interesting people and I enjoy sharing my experiences with my audiences via social media. I love being able to communicate with my audience both on and off-stage so I invest time into creating good content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat as well as my YouTube Channel where I make videos about my experiences as a young artist as well as sharing more personal aspects of myself.
Want to know even more about Esther? She shares 15 fun facts about herself in this video: youtube.com
Esther Yoo performs Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Minnesota Orchestra on November 3, 4 and 5. For more information on these concerts, visit minnesotaorchestra.org.