Tell us about your relationship with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra?
Working with Kirill always makes me happy. We first met in Seoul in 2007 and although we couldn’t speak each other’s language there was a special moment during the first rehearsal when we immediately felt that this was the start of something really great. We seemed to understand each other so well and since that first concert we have formed a good collaboration, plus we’ve become great friends. The BSO is such an amazing orchestra; such nice people and I really appreciate their support and kindness towards me.
When did you start to learn the piano?
I started at the age of three and then at six I took up the violin. I studied both of them until I was twelve and then decided to drop the violin in favour of the piano. There are many reasons for this; it was hard carrying the violin around every day, also I had to think about the strings and the bow, plus there’s the price of that instrument. There are many advantages of playing the piano, one being that it is always on stage and the technician is around to make sure it is perfectly tuned. I think I made the right decision in choosing the piano.
Is there one pianist that has had the most influence on your career?
András Schiff or I should say Sir András Schiff as he is now. He has been my mentor for many years. We met for the first time in Seoul at one his masterclasses and then he invited me to play at his masterclass in Lucerne in Switzerland. I’ve learnt so much from András; mentally, physically and musically.
Apart from being a pianist you’ve also studied conducting, is this something you would like to pursue?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to become a conductor. I studied conducting at the Royal Academy of Music here in London for three years. Although it didn’t take me long to realise how difficult it was to study both the piano and conducting. When I graduated I decided that I was not ready to take up conducting just yet. Another great mentor in my life is the conductor, Myung-Whun Chung with whom I made a recording of three piano concertos. You know I even bought a baton of his at an auction when I was ten!
How do you relax?
It’s difficult and I never really take a holiday, in fact the longest I’ve been away from a piano is three days as I always need to practice. I used to get very nervous and tense before concerts, but since the birth of my son I’ve calmed down a lot. Also, I’ve discovered that drinking tea instead of coffee has helped!