Youth, Passion, and a Violin

Written by on November 3, 2011 in Arts, Korea Abroad

* This post is written by Elizabeth Shim for the Korean Cultural Service in New York.

Ye-Eun Choi at the Chelsea Art Museum, holding her violin by Pietro Giacomo Rogeri (1710)

Ye-Eun Choi at the Chelsea Art Museum, holding her violin by Pietro Giacomo Rogeri (1710)

Picture this. A young violinist of prodigious talent emerges from Seosan, Korea. She gives her first concert with the Seoul Philharmonic at the age of ten. Her talent is promptly recognized by the authorities of her field. From Moscow to Montreal she is visited by accolades and awards. Even world-renowned violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter is astonished, praising her “extraordinary gifts, alert intelligence, and innate capacity for musical communication.”

Who is this young woman?

23-year-old Ye-Eun Choi is a fresh-faced ambassador of the latest generation of Korean musicians whose fierce talent and versatility are captivating audiences around the globe. She is equally at ease with Beethoven, Bach, Shostakovich and Korngold. At the annual Chelsea Music Festival (June 14-18), a thoughtfully curated program of chamber music in New York’s gallery district, Choi distinguished herself with a talent for violin virtuosity and musical leadership.

Ye-Eun Choi and Gergana Gergova

Ye-Eun Choi and Gergana Gergova (right) play J. Brahms Insurrection (1996) by Jean Miotte at the Chelsea Art Museum

The brainchild of Ken-David Masur and Melinda Lee Masur, the Festival’s repertoire reflected the youthful ingenuity of its talented founders. Programs presented at the Chelsea Art Museum were a delicate dance between music and the contemporary visual arts. Cookies, baked to commemorate the composers Gustav Mahler and Franz Liszt were full of tongue-in-cheek references. And throughout the week, Choi’s playing served as a metaphor for the young spirit of the series, a welcome change from the pomp and ceremony of traditional concert halls and stern-faced maestros.

For the past five years, Choi has studied under Ana Chumachenko in Munich. An ongoing recipient of a scholarship from the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation, her journey has never been short of mentors. In Korea, she began her career under the guidance of Nam Yun Kim. “A wonderful violin teacher,” Choi recalled. “She knew how to teach. She taught me the kind of relationship I should have with music.” Recognizing the brilliance of her pupil, Kim later encouraged Choi to pursue her musical studies abroad.

True to past accolades, Choi’s charismatic playing was on full force at the Chelsea Music Festival. On the second evening of the series, Choi’s bow glided across three distinct movements of E. Korngold’s (1897-1957) Piano Quintet in E Major. With grace and poise she played music reminiscent of the golden age of Hollywood: romantic lyricisms that alternated with the cacophony and tension peculiar to modern music. At another venue, Choi’s execution of Johannes Brahms’ (1833-1897) String Sextet No. 2 in G Major really carried the movement, as she deftly balanced her intrinsic youth with musical maturity.

“I love music,” Choi smiled, “I live in it: rehearsals everyday, and concerts. I’ve received energy from the music since I was 7 years old.”

A simple statement by most measures, but a musical manifesto to live by for a young musician. And the energy? It certainly shows.

For more information about Ye-Eun Choi, please see her proprietary website:

About the Author

Starting in May 2011, we have been the first class of the Korean Cultural Service New York’s cultural reporters to help promote the uniqueness of Korean culture to New York City -- the world’s cultural hub. As cultural reporters in New York City, we first take on challenges and initiatives to report about dynamic Korean culture to the metropolitan area, but we project that we will eventually reach beyond just New Yorkers to raise awareness about Korean culture to the world.