The winner of the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition

The 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition which took place between the 1st and 23rd October 2015 in Warsaw was a tremendous artistic and, in a way, commercial success. It was not a coincidence—the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute responsible for organizing the competition, in cooperation with the Polish Television and Polish Radio (that, reportedly, do not support Polish culture at all), made a lot of effort for the event to be organized professionally, at a world-class level. So, special (very nice and functional) websites were created where one could find all the news (e.g. videos, interviews and articles) related to the competition, and an even nicer and more functional application was developed, which offered the same information for smartphones.

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A decision was also made to arrange a studio—one very similar to those organized during the most important sports events—to which eminent guests were invited to comment on the performance of currently performing artists. The quality of media coverage (both on the radio and TV) was also very high. Above all, the cultural triumvirate managed to do something much more important: during the (virtually) entire October, Polish people got to know the kind of music that they normally do not listen to at all; Chopin decided to leave elite locations and chose to spend his time on the couch of an average Pole, making him or her nobler and enriched inside. The atmosphere of those days is wonderfully shown by a satirical drawing which presents typical Polish prefab concrete blocks of flats whose inhabitants shout out things like: “Mind the notes, you motherfucker!”, “The fucking forte now!” or “What the fuck was that? An etude?”. During the competition, the sacrum met the profane and won. Yes, that time was truly beautiful.

Some aspects of the 17th edition of the Polish piano competition were mostly available only to experts in the field of classical music and its true lovers. The most promising artists from all around the world came to Warsaw and had to face often difficult compositions. Their success or failure was to be determined (and was determined) by nuances, details, things that most of us hardly hear or cannot hear at all. Of course, everyone could have their favorite (not necessarily the same as pointed out by TV or radio experts) and count on his or her victory, and the possibility to move on to the next stage of the competition, so that they could continue showing their talent.

However, the piano masters were evaluated by a carefully selected jury consisting of people whose entire life is defined by the piano and classical music. Having listened to all the ten final concerts, the jury had no doubt—the winner of the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was Seong-Jin Cho, born on May 28th 1994, a Korean student of the prestigious Paris Conservatory, the winner of the International Chopin Competition in Moscow (2008) and the International Piano Competition in Hamamatsu (2009). Additionally (although—who cares, if you win the entire competition), Cho received a reward for the best polonaise performance.

Using the opportunity, Seong-Jin Cho started a concert tour straight away. One of the oldest record labels in the world, the legendary Deutsche Grammophon, also took immediate action and released the debut album of the Korean pianist on November 6th (so after just over two weeks!), entitled “Winner of the 17th Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition”. Anyone who felt emptiness or sadness after the competition ended was not abandoned and could still “meet” the artist and his music.

I have consciously used the word “meet”. I myself decided to “meet” Cho at least once. I thought about buying his album at the beginning, but I managed to organize as many as three “meetings” with him. The first meeting took place at my home when I played his album. For the second time, I saw the Korean pianist during the masters’ recital at the Krakow Philharmonic. Finally, although I still cannot believe it really took place, I met Cho one more time, face to face. The artist agreed to meet me during his stay in Cracow and answer a few questions. Of course, Seong-Jin Cho has had many such conversations since his triumph in Warsaw, so I decided to ask him different, audiophile questions. I hoped they would show him from a different perspective, perhaps as interesting, but totally overlooked by most Polish and foreign music journalists.

I describe my three “meetings” with Cho below. First, I present the interview as the main course and then something in addition—the Krakow concert coverage. Wojciech Pacuła is responsible for the dessert, in the form of a review of Cho’s debut album, assessing the recording both with regards to music and (mainly) to sound quality.

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CRACOW: INTERVIEW

The Cracow Philharmonic is one of the most important concert halls in that part of Poland. Its history is vivid, but relatively short – the opening concert took place there in February 1945. Despite this, the most important representatives of classical music have visited the place, for example: Krzysztof Penderecki (its art director between 1988 and 1990), Fabio Bondi and Marc Minkowski. The Capella Cracoviensis also has its seat on Zwierzyniecka 1. There are three halls in the Philharmonic building (which served as a Catholic institution before 1945). The largest concert hall with 693 seats houses the most important events and there is also the Johannes Klais – Orgelbau Bonn organ, while the remaining two halls (called “Gold” and “Blue”) are for “chamber music”, as we can read on the official website.

I am writing it because I contributed a little to the history of this place on December 19th 2015. Right there, at the “Golden” hall, I met Seong-Jin Cho. He was there alone and our chairs were so close to one another that I had to be careful not to step on his shoes. Though Cho must be aware of his talent and high position in the music industry that he has reached in such a short time, he did not look overwhelmed by all this. As he said himself, he does not feel like part of “some kind of an elite club”. He spoke very calmly and quietly, often smiled and let me take photos willingly. Let me remind you that this is a person who has been constantly travelling since last October from one concert hall to another, practicing playing the piano at least four (!) hours a day. So, if was tired with all that, he did not show it. The conversation was not long, though I managed to ask him all my questions. I asked him about many issues that he is rarely asked about, such as audio equipment, sound quality or the “collectible” aspect of music. Well, I even managed to confirm the statement (published in Gazeta Wyborcza, as far as I remember) that the sound of pianos changes after some time when they are moved to new locations.

BARTOSZ PACUŁA: So, my first question is about you feeling exhausted. Do you feel exhausted by performing all this time? Because, essentially, all the finalists of the International Chopin Piano Competition are touring right now. So, it’s a lot of concerts, a lot of interviews and a lot of practicing. So, do you feel exhausted or is it something that you enjoy the most?

SEONG-JIN CHO: I enjoy it very much. I’m not yet exhausted. I have played 16 concerts after the competition. It’s quite a lot. I think I have to limit the number of concerts for the next year because I want to deliver good quality. I have to prepare, I need some time to practice, so it’s not because I’m tired, I just want to be well-prepared.

I imagine that you have seen not quite a lot, but a bit of Poland. Do you like this country? Do you like people from Poland? It’s a tricky question.

I like Poland, especially Cracow. It’s one of my favorite cities – very beautiful. And Warsaw also, I like Warsaw very much. The audience here is very warm, I think. And there are many very good music composers like Chopin, Szymanowski and Lutosławski. I think it’s a very musical country.

My next question is connected with your debut album. It was released by the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon. Deutsche Grammophon is connected with Christian Thielemann, Karl Böhm or Herbert von Karajan…

Karajan, yes.

And do you feel you have joined a very elite club or you don’t really care about all these record labels and their history?

Honestly, I am really honored to release my debut album with the Deutsche Grammophon label. It is, of course, a top label in the world, but I don’t think I’ve become part of the Deutsche Grammophon club. I want to become one of those great artists (laugh), but I don’t think I’m at that level yet.

Yeah, I think the label is important. I don’t care if it’s big or small, the producer is very important to me.

High Fidelity is an audiophile magazine, so we deal with audio equipment, especially expensive audio equipment. So, do you have any experience with that kind of stuff? 

No, I don’t have such expensive equipment at my home.

But you have some audio equipment—I’m not talking about expensive devices, but, you know, some amplifier and speakers? 

I live in Paris. It’s a very small studio, so I have no amplifier and speakers, but in Korea I have Japanese equipment.

I think it’s an interesting question—do you listen to any music at home? Classical music?

Any music.

Yes, I listen to music very often. Classical music is the most important.

In your opinion, is the sound aspect part of music, or is it just technical stuff that doesn’t really matter?

(laugh) It’s a really hard question

Yes, yes – I know (laugh).

We cannot ignore the sound, but music is more important than sound because there’ve been generations of pianists at a time when sound was not so good. It is very cold, filthy, but we can feel how great the pianists were. So, music is more important and sound comes second.

As regards acoustics, the piano is just one instrument, but I know from experience that there are some places where even the piano doesn’t sound very well. Have you had any good or bad auditory experience with some places? The worst and the best experience?

(laugh) I can’t tell you about the worst experience, because I can’t give you the name of the venue. The best experience… I think the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is a very good hall with great acoustics. And in Japan there are many good venues and they have fantastic pianos. And in Poland… In Katowice they have a very good hall and in Warsaw also.

And another question connected with the piano—during this competition I read in some newspaper that pianos are delivered to a hall a year before an event, because they need to stay at that place as their sound changes due to the change of surroundings. I deal with cables that actually change sound in an audio system, but I have to ask—does it really work like that with pianos? Do they sound different after one year?

After one year—yes, it’s true.

And is it difficult to hear? Could some guy from the street hear the difference or not? Or only a professional pianist?

I think it’s very delicate, so the people who have a delicate ear can, of course, feel the difference. Yeah, because a new piano is very difficult to play. Everything is stiff and sound is also stiff, but after one year it becomes softer. With more music to play sound changes, of course. And, for a pianist, it is very difficult to play a very new piano. It’s better to play a one-year or a two-year piano.

Would you like to see your first album released on vinyl? Because nowadays we’ve got the Renaissance of vinyl. Would it be, I don’t know, cool—or are you not interested?

I think it would be cool (laugh).

And do you have any vinyl discs?

Yes, I have some vinyl records in Korea, for example Krystian Zimerman.

There are multiple, not widely known record labels, but most of them release very good editions of their albums—in collectors’ boxes. Is it something that matters to you, that appeals to you? You know, a big box with a big book and an art cover? Or is it just something that does not really matter?

No, I don’t care about that.

OK, so my last question will be: could you recommend 3 – 5 best classical recordings to our readers? 

My favorite, I can say, my favorite record is Schubert’s Impromptus by Radu Lupu. I can recommend Mahler’s 2nd Symphony by Zubin Mehta—I think it was released by Decca. Chopin’s 4 Ballads by Krystian Zimerman. There is Simon Goldberg, the violinist… And Mozart’s sonatas performed by Earl Wild, all Wild sonatas. And the last one …

You know, you don’t have to mention five.

(laugh) Very good.

Thank you very much for the interview and for answering all my questions.

Thank you. It was very nice talking to you.

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CRACOW: RECITAL

Listening to something from an album or on the radio is a completely different experience than listening to it live. It seems obvious, but is not always so. Too frequently, people who willingly express their opinions concerning music (and especially sound) rarely go to concerts. Then, they usually say that going to such an event requires an enormous investment of time/money, which is often far from the truth and serves as a convenient excuse. As I repeat, listening  to live music brings us so many emotions and precious information that it is not possible not to go to concerts if you want to know something more. An excellent example was Cho’s performance in Cracow, thanks to which I could, for the first time, fully understand the decision of the jury and comprehend why they decided to give the first prize to him, from among a whole lot of incredibly talented musicians.

The emotions that were evoked by his performance are hard to describe. When I went to his recital, I naturally expected musical high-end. The program included compositions well known to all Chopin lovers – Nocturne in C minor op. 48 No. 1, Sonata in B minor op. 35, Scherzo in B minor op. 31 and Preludes op. 28, so it was very promising, but what I heard that day literally overwhelmed me. I just want to assure you that it had nothing to do with the fact that I had already talked to Cho when I sat in the audience. He managed to create incredibly intense atmosphere, filling the whole Philharmonic hall with Chopin’s music using only one instrument. What is important, he did it consciously and his creation by no means resulted from a combination of a few external factors that he had no control of. He was completely in charge of the instrument and the venue, and what he gave us was undoubtedly well-thought-out and very well prepared.

He evoked my (and not only mine, judging by the spontaneous reaction of the audience) admiration also through the precision of his performance and technical mastery specific only for an ultra-small group of people with exceptional skills. Of course, Cho (an incredibly modest person) may refuse to accept all the praise and complain that he still makes too many mistakes, but it cannot change the fact that his talent cannot be ignored. From my point of view, the “modernity” of his performance deserves additional praise. He never parts with the art of the old masters, but he also does not attempt to match them or to copy their style at all cost. He chooses his own path instead and it depends on us whether we like the way he performs or not.

My whole praise regarding Cho’s performance sounds really strong and my statements about his genius may seem exaggerated, but I am fully aware of what I am writing. I am also calm, as other people share my view on the matter. The audience from Cracow, that has had many occasions to experience music and witness the best kind of performances, liked the artist’s performance so much that they did not want to let him go, so he had to play encores. Everyone was really sorry when the concert finished and when we realized that we would have to wait for some time for the next such event. Fortunately, as the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute informs, “an exceptional recital of the winner of the last International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition – Seong-Jin Cho” is going to take place already on March 1st at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw. As we read further, “his March recital will be combined with the promotion of an album containing recordings of concert performances, released as part of the Błękitna Seria (Blue Series) released by the NFCI—a cycle of portraits of the most interesting personalities of Chopin Competitions”. So, there is nothing else left for me to do, but to encourage you to buy tickets for that concert. I guarantee that it is most probably one of the best things that you will hear not only this year, but perhaps in your entire life.  BP

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His Music

Written by: Wojciech Pacuła

SEONG-JIN CHO: WINNER OF THE 17th FRYDERYK CHOPIN PIANO COMPETITION

The 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition was one of most effectively publicized editions of this event. The Polish Television provided 130 hours of live broadcast, similarly to Polish Radio 2. There were also online broadcasts. As we read in “Culture.pl”, after the Competition results were announced, the name of the winner was the most frequently searched word in Korean Google – the Korean pianist had never received so much attention before, at least on the Internet. On February 2nd 2016 the artist performed in Seoul, which must have been a very special experience for him, as he had not performed in his fatherland for a long time. The interest in the winner is even stronger than normal because, according to a consensus, after a few editions that lacked individuals as unique as, for example, Maurizio Pollini, Krystian Zimerman and Martha Argerich, we finally have a real Personality. According to the director of the Chopin Institute, Mr. Artur Szklener, Seong-Jin Cho is an emerging star:

Chopin’s music, which constitutes the basis for the piano repertoire, tests performers in every respect, from their performance technique to the depth of their interpretation and imagination. This year’s edition of the Chopin Competition attracted an incredibly large number of candidates from all over the world. The best pianist was chosen from among those who performed in the finals and moved the hearts of the audience. Seong-Jin Cho was given the first prize for his unmatched performances. Thanks to renewed cooperation with the Deutsche Grammophon, listeners all over the world will be able to experience his emotional strength, expressive nuances and mature interpretations of Chopin’s works. pl.chopin.nifc.pl

Mr. Szklener’s views are shared by Costa Pilavachi, the International Senior Vice President who coordinates repertoire-artistic issues regarding classical music in the Universal Music Group:

During the three intensive weeks of the Competition full of wonderful music, we were enchanted by his performances and we believe that he will become one of the best artists of his generation. The International Chopin Competition sets standards that become compulsory for other music competitions. It is one of the most important events of this type and, by attracting the attention of the whole world, it presents the best classical music performers. We are honored to be able to bring the Competition closer to a new audience using our social media campaign and live broadcasts of the final auditions, and now also using Seong-Jin Cho’s debut album. www.deutschegrammophon.com

Jessica Duchen from the “Sinfini Music” portal that was a partner for this release (the portal’s logo was placed on the album booklet), gave the album the maximum number of stars (5). She wrote that Cho’s recital is like a breath of fresh air: “His performance is pleasant, communicative and faithful to the spirit of the composition, and the composer’s imagination. It is also—in pianistic terms—performance of the highest quality.” She adds that in Preludes Cho had a nose for delicious details served with exceptional sensitivity. “It is a rare ideal—when we experience it, we enjoy it to the full”—she says further on. It is also important to her that each of the Preludes, and even each repetition, has its own expression (more HERE).

We can find the echoes of other reviews in her enthusiastic appraisal of the album. David Smith of “Presto Classical” thinks that we do not get the impression that the difficult part of the program proves difficult to Cho in any way and that the Preludes and Sonata were performed equally well. “It can also be heard, he adds, that Cho is neither scared off by the scale of the latter, nor the virtuosity of the former. Seong-Jin Cho is undoubtedly a brand—it is a good debut that any young artist could only dream about. If there is any justice in the world, we will hear about many more of his achievements!” The reviews from “The Guardian” (“His performance of 24 Preludes is thrilling”, “incredibly clear, characterized by unbelievably good articulation”) and “The Telegraph” (“unambiguously brilliant”) seem to exclaim : we have a PIANIST!

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FOUR RELEASES

The album with Chopin’s music played by Seong-Jin Cho was released right after the Competition ended, on November 6th 2015, by the Deutsche Grammophon—it is a tradition. Initially, it was released in two countries: Poland and Korea. The edition for “the whole world,” prepared by the German headquarters of the record label, had to wait until December 18th. On the same day, the Japanese edition was released on a SHM-CD (unfortunately, the recording has not been delivered to us since the review was published).

The album was a great success already in the first few weeks after its release. As we could read on the Facebook profile of the record label, over 100 000 copies of the album were sold at the beginning, including 15 000 copies sold in Poland and 90 000 in Korea. In Poland, Korea, Japan and Germany the album was prepared by local branches and, though the versions are generally similar, they differ with regards to detail.

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All the versions were released in jewelcase boxes with the same imprints. The Polish version, however, has a unique white strip around the cover and the inscription: “Foreign recording – Polish price” visible under the transparent cover. It is part of a campaign that has been continued for years by the Polish branch of the Universal company which is trying to make records released in Poland as cheap as possible. In this case, the “Polish” recording costs 42 Polish zlotys and a “regular” one – 54 zlotys. Such album booklets are usually more modest and the discs are pressed by the Polish company Tact. This time the album is made in Poland, but, apart from the above mentioned white strip, the booklet is the same as the one made for the German version, including information given in three languages: English, German and Polish. The Polish version has the catalog number 4795680.

The Korean version, which was published on the same day, has a booklet similar to the one included in the “worldwide” version. It differs from the Polish and German releases with regards to the third language used – here we have Korean instead of Polish. Additionally, the main album booklet is accompanied by another black-and-white one with additional information in Korean, which is a standard practice also in the case of Japanese releases. The album was pressed in Korea and has the catalog number DG40101/4795332. The foil that covers the album features a golden sticker with the imprinted words of Dr. Atrur Szklener, the Director of the Chopin Institute, who refers to Seong-Jin Cho as an “emerging star.”

The German version intended for distribution all over the world was released as the last one. Apart from the lack of the white strip around the cover, it is the same as the Polish version. Mareike Walter was the person responsible for its design. Bartek Sadowski’s (the Chopin Institute) photo is placed on the cover and more of his, and Wojciech Grzędziński’s photos can be found inside.

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RECORDING

Recording took place during the whole competition in October 2015 in a concert hall of the National Philharmonic in Warsaw. These are “live” recordings and it is a pity that there is no information in the album when exactly they were made. The producers were: Stanisław Leszczyński, representing the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute, and Sid McLauchan—a representative of the record label Deutsche Grammophon. The recordings were made by the staff of Polish Radio 2 that transmitted all the Competition stages on air and on the Internet. Polish Radio 2 also supplied sound to Polish Television transmission cars. Quite a lot of people worked on the project, including a team of sound engineers: Lech Dudzik, Gabriela Blicharz, Julita Emanuiłow and Ewa Guziołek-Tubelewicz. Gabriela Blicharz and Julita Emanuiłow were also responsible for mastering, and Anna-Lena Rodewald was the project manager.

The album features four musical works divided into 30 tracks:

  1. Preludes (24) for Piano, Op. 28
    Time and place of origin: 1836-1839; Paris, France 
    Recording date: 10/2015 
    Recording venue: Live | A concert hall at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw
    Length: 33 min 29 s 

    2. Nocturnes (2) for Piano, B 142/Op. 48: No. 1 in C minor 
    Time and place of origin: 1841; Paris, France 
    Recording date: 10/2015 
    Recording venue: Live | A concert hall at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw
    Length: 6 min 12 s

    3. Sonata for Piano No. 2 in B flat minor, B 128/Op. 35 “Funeral March” 
    Time and place of origin: 1837-1839; Paris, France 
    Recording date: 10/2015 
    Recording venue: Live | A concert hall at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw
    Length: 20 min 12 s 

    4. Polonaise for Piano in A flat major, B 147/Op. 53 “Heroic” 
    Time and place of origin: 1842; Paris, France 
    Recording date: 10/2015 
    Recording venue: Live | A concert hall at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw
    Length: 7 min 23 s 
    Total album length: 72 min 53 s

SOUND

Polish Radio

Recordings from Chopin Competitions are well-made and dependable, and correctly render the atmosphere of the recorded performances. It proves very effective mainly during a live broadcast. The listener seems to be taking part in the live event and the recording method comes across as really good. Starting from stage 3, I followed most of the auditions on the radio, both using the small Tivoli Model One, as well as through headphones, and on this basis I assume that the sound crew did their duty very well. The final concert which I watched on TV only confirmed that.

One of the basic elements that made the listener feel like a real “participant” was the aesthetics chosen by the sound engineers. There are many canons related to recording classical music, but two main “schools” can be differentiated: the “documentary” (“far”) one and the “creative” (“close”) one. Their differ in their views on what mechanical reproduction of music should be. The former pays attention to rendering spatial impressions as faithfully as possible, from the perspective from which  a listener perceives the event. Here we talk about fuzzy phantom images, their larger distance from the listener and strong acoustic surroundings, i.e. reverberations and reflections. The latter brings us closer to the instruments, emphasizing their individual 3D images and tone, while focusing less on sound reflections. It is tangible, almost “palpable” sound.

Engineering

Polish Radio sound engineers prefer the former method (I am sorry for this generalization, as I am referring to individual sound engineers, who, anyway, are united in this respect). I know the work that they have been doing for many years during the Misteria Paschalia festival in Cracow, both when it comes to live broadcasts and recording, and I have had an opportunity to compare their recordings with what I heard myself during a given concert. Seong-Jin Cho’s recordings, even though individual tracks differ in sound, resemble a “documentary”. They are dominated by reflected sounds, while the 3D image of the piano, its “body” is not strongly emphasized. Although a decision was made to introduce a small deviation (show the right and left hand a bit separately—though in reality one cannot hear that), it is a delicate shift which makes the recording better.

The piano is shown from quite a far perspective, so there is no impression that we are sitting close to it. It can be heard especially clearly in the case of bass which is shown quite sparingly, which is different from studio Deutsche Grammophone recordings, e.g. Ivo Pogorelich. It is a method which, historically, is probably closest to Polish phonography—it is enough to listen to an album recorded at the same place: Artur Rubinstein w Filharmonii Narodowej (Artur Rubinstein at the National Philharmonic). It is a recording of a concert which took place on February 22nd 1960 (live). As a counterweight, let us take the recording of Mazurka in E minor performed by Rubinstein in 1939, being part of a digital re-issue of the album of the year 2008. The piano here has a large body, it is close and has a large volume. The drawback is insufficient resolution.

Each of the album tracks has been treated in a slightly different way. I assume that happened during the process of mixing and mastering. It is about diversified background—in Sonata…and Polonaise… we have a much more strongly emphasized “hall”, as if the microphones placed close to the audience were made more sensitive. Of course, live recordings have their own dynamics of events, especially because recording took place on different days. However, there is no doubt that these two masterpieces were mixed with different balance. The Nocturnes were treated in a yet different way. Their tone is colder, as if someone wanted to emphasize their mood. The piano shines brighter here and the sound attack is clearer. The piano is shown farthest away in Preludes, and closest in the Polonaise.

Personally, I prefer the “close” version since I think that playing music at the home of a listener is an event separate from the moment of recording (concert). This is connected with an entirely different listening environment and a lack of visual stimuli. Our sight is replaced by a closer and larger instrument volume here, the more that the acoustics at the moment of listening has nothing to do with acoustics at the time of recording. However, this is my opinion and you most probably have your own one.

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Editions

So far, the album has been released in four countries and pressed at four different locations. As I assume, the same “master” recording had been delivered to all of them, probably in the form of 16/44.1 files. However, the sound of each of the three pressings that we are evaluating is significantly different. It is no use demonstrating one’s disbelief, as it is technically justified. Each pressing facility prepares its own pressing templates and produces the physical discs. Even though it is a standardized process, there are clear differences between pressings, interpreted by a CD player in its own way. There is a reason why Japanese pressing facilities have been regarded as the best ones for many years, with JVC (XRCD), Sony (Blu-spec CD, BSCD2), Memory-Tech/EMI (HQCD, UHQCD) and Universal (Platinum SHM-CD) as the leading brands.

In the case of Seong-Jin Cho’s album, the German pressing is the best. When you compare the Polish version to it, you will hear that its sound is subdued, a bit “crumpled”. Treble selectivity is worse and higher bass is less clear, as if there is not enough precision in the attack. Therefore, the range between, say, 600 Hz and 2 kHz is more emphasized. The sound of the treble is similar in the case of the Korean version, though it does not seem “dirty” at the top—there is simply less treble than in the German version. The bass in the Korean version is similar to the bass in the German version—it has appropriate weight and fullness (within the accepted aesthetics).

The differences between these versions can be expressed numerically as ca. 5%. It does not seem much and if we listen to any of the versions without comparing it to the other ones, the differences will not be of much importance. Since in “High Fidelity” we deal with such comparisons and are obliged to point out the best solutions, it is worth taking into account. The 5% seem to be very little, but in the case of a good audio system they are worth fighting for. So, my final assessment is related to the German version. It is a truly well-made album. Small changes in the presentation of individual musical works have been introduced to underline their exceptional character. It is a recording which shows the piano from a certain perspective, with a lot of reflected sounds and little importance attached to bass, which constitutes an attempt to repeat a live event through a recording of this type. WP

Sound quality: 7-8/10

www.deutschegrammophon.com

SUMMARY

There will not be too many people who will have the honor of meeting Seong-Jin Cho in person. Many more people are going to see him perform live during a concert, but this number will also be (relatively) small. One is most likely to “meet” him by buying his debut album. However, regardless of what sort of a “meeting” with the incredibly talented Korean we talk about, it will always be time well spent. Additionally, I would like to encourage all our readers to get to know Cho’s artistic achievements and personality (e.g. by reading interviews). I guarantee that it is going to be the best sort of entertainment for everyone!

I would like to kindly thank Ms. Izabella Dargiel and the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute for helping me arrange the interview. I also want to thank Ms. Małgorzata Koch-Butryn, a PR specialist at the Cracow Philharmonic, for letting me take part in the concert. BP

http://chopincompetition2015.com/?lang=en

KOREA

Interviewer: Bartosz Pacuła

Text (review): Wojciech Pacuła

Photos: Bartosz Pacuła and Wojciech Pacuła

Translation: Ewa Muszczynko

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