South Korean pianist Yekwon Sunwoo was not among the 30 young musicians selected in March for the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, but he was told to be ready. As the first alternate, the 24-year-old Juilliard student would be asked to come to Fort Worth if any competitor dropped out.
“It was hard to practice,” Sunwoo conceded Wednesday. “It was hard to get fully into it and prepare.”
Not anymore. A few days ago, he received another call from the Cliburn, saying a slot had opened up in the competition, which begins May 24 at Bass Hall. Cliburn officials announced Wednesday that Sunwoo and Russian Nikita Abrosimov, also 24, had been added to the field to take the place of two pianists who withdrew.
“I was very happy about it,” Sunwoo said. “I know it’s kind of late, but I’m trying my best. I’m really happy practicing now.”
The spots opened up when YouYou Zhang, a 29-year-old American studying at TCU, and South Korean Hyung-Min Suh, 22, withdrew for personal reasons, said Maggie Estes, the Cliburn’s director of marketing.
Sunwoo has performed with orchestras around the world and made his New York debut in 2009 in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall.
Abrosimov’s international appearances include Alice Tully Hall in New York and La Scala in Milan, Italy. He recently performed with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra and the acclaimed conductor Valery Gergiev.
His music degrees include one from Indiana University South Bend. He lives in London and studies at the Royal College of Music. Abrosimov could not be reached for comment.
“Van Cliburn is one of my favorite musicians. I have great respect for his playing,” Sunwoo said. “I’ve always wanted to enter the competition. There are so many competitions, but the Cliburn is the only one that gives you full opportunities and a chance to start a career.”