South-Korean pianist Seong-Jin Cho might be only 23, but his playing exudes a maturity and sensitivity one expects from the most seasoned masters. Winner of the 2008 International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, Cho decided to continue his studies in 2012 in France, undertaking classes with Michel Béroff at the Paris Conservatoire. He’s since steeped himself in all things French, turning his eye towards Claude Debussy. After his first DG release of Chopin’s Ballades and First Piano Concerto, Cho has recorded some of Debussy’s famous collections.
Cho’s touch is impressively deft, perfect for the French master’s aquatic-inspired creations. Reflets dans l’Eau and Poissons d’Or, from the first and second books, respectively, of Images, ripple with ease. He draws exquisite lines and shapes throughout both books, evoking perfectly the dreamy insouciance of Cloches à Travers les Feuilles, and the soft austerity of Et la Lune Descend sur le Temple qui Fut.
Cho gave his first recital when he was 11 years old, and on the programme was Debussy’s Children’s Corner. He inhabits the playful innocence of these works brilliantly. Each interpretation is full of character; even the familiar Golliwogg’s Cakewalk seems to bear his personal stamp of tempo and touch. The Suite Bergamasque features some of his most impressively limpid and articulate playing, and the whole programme is brought off with a sumptuous and bold reading of L’Isle Joyeuse.