Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto is one of the most challenging works in the piano repertoire. So much so, that it featured as a daunting pianistic challenge in the film Shine. In the lead up to our concert Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, we sat down with our soloist Yeol Eum Son to chat about her relationship to Rachmaninov and her much anticipated debut with our Orchestra.

Can you share your journey in preparing for Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, considering its reputation as one of the most challenging concertos?
It’s indeed, maybe one of the most “physical” concertos for us, pianists. For instance, I can’t quite imagine playing it with an empty stomach! It is also, emotionally, very very “pouring”, so I always try to draw a long line until the end of the piece, but of course, it’s not always easy to be true to each moment and to think ahead at the same time.

As a pianist, what aspects of Rachmaninov's musical style do you find most intriguing? And how do you work to bring out these nuances in your interpretation?
When we think about Rachmaninov, we immediately think about some large-scale and grandiose images but what I also love about his music is the “veloce” (he used this often in scores as an indication) character.  We also witness this a lot in his own playing (from his recordings).  The feather-like lightness and the shine he brings throughout are so magical! I think this concerto is one great example where you can see this in many passages. You feel like you are seeing all these shining stars in a completely dark sky with closed eyes.

Photo Credit: Marco Borggreve

What is your earliest musical memory and how did it shape you as a musician?
I wasn’t the greatest piano fan as a kid but I loved music so much and that has probably been “the drive” of all my life as a musician. I loved discovering and listening to recordings, going to concerts and learning about them. Something I felt almost strangely comfortable with was being on stage. I was very much an introverted kid (and still am) but when on stage, I didn’t feel timid or hesitant, or limited, so it was a great feeling. I guess it is my way of communicating with others.

What are you most looking forward to doing in Australia besides your performances?
I heard so much about Perth, mostly about nature! I’m very much looking forward to exploring some of that. I feel really privileged to have come to Perth finally - I remember our first “attempt” to bring me there was in July 2020, when everything in the world was cancelled. I was very much hoping that it would be rescheduled and it is happening now, I can’t wait to be there!

Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto
Friday 8 & Saturday 9 March, 7.30pm
Perth Concert Hall