Who or what inspired you to take up piano and make it your career?
When I was 8 years old, I had a chance to play for a renowned pianist in Korea and I was very nervous for a whole week. One day before meeting her, I had a nightmare that she told me not to play piano and I cried a lot. That was the point when I realised that I want to play piano my whole life, no matter what. In fact, she was very lovely in person.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My piano teacher for 5 years from age 10. She was a very active performer and I went to her every concert. From the moment when she would enter the stage with the conductor until the end of concert, the audience was enchanted by her. She was my absolute idol. She always told me that your music starts when you enter the stage and at her concerts she demonstrated to me what she meant. She was magnificent and it was my dream to be a pianist like her.
I am grateful that I have met so many wonderful musicians who are a big influence in my life and not just in music: especially Leon McCawley, Deniz Gelenbe, Gabriele Baldocci, Pascal Roge, Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Ola Karlsson and Peter Grote.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
For a long time I played piano for someone else. One day I lost that person and I was really lost for a year. Slowly I learnt to love music again and play piano for myself. Now I will always have a reason to play my music because it is finally truly who I am.
Which performance are you most proud of?
I am fortunate to have played at prestigious concert venues all around the world. I enjoy playing at big halls, and was surprised when I had a life-changing experience at a lower standard hall. After the recital an elderly lady came to me crying. She was speaking Spanish, which I could not understand, but I could feel how happy she was. I was really touched and proud that I could make people happy, or happier, with my music. After that point I was reminded of the origin of music and my purpose in being musician.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
The music that means something to me.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I aim to have a mixed repertoire so that there is something for me and for the audience.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Wigmore Hall in London, Palau de la Musica in Valencia and the Berlin Philharmonic are amazing and at the top of my favourites list.
On one occasion I played a solo recital on a big stage (the stage itself has a capacity of 500 people) in Korea. It was interesting for me as it was hard to control the acoustic. It was very challenging but gave me joy.
Favourite pieces to listen to?
I love listening to Chopin piano concerto recordings. Every pianists has a different interpretation.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Alfred Cortot and Jacqueline du Pre
What is your most memorable concert experience?
Performing the Prokofiev Piano Concerto no.3 for Alzheimer’s patients and a solo recital at an army base. I never had such a concentrated and enthusiastic audience.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Know yourself. Physically and psychologically.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am preparing two world premieres for a Wigmore Hall recital this month, by Stephen Montague and Gwyn Pritchard. These works were commissioned as part of my project to commemorate lives lost at sea – an idea that came to be after the tragic disaster of the Korean ferry MV Sewol on the 16 April 2014. I sometimes forget the many different sides of nature and tend to label it based on what is visible on the surface. For the second part of my recital I have selected pieces related to this idea, including the two premiered pieces.
What is your most treasured possession?
My Spotify subscription and Edwin Fischer’s recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.
Identified by Gramophone as the ‘talent of tomorrow – today’, Jenna Sung gives her debut Wigmore Hall recital on 16th November 2014 as a prize for the 2013 Jaques Samuel Pianos Competition. The programme includes works by Haydn, Skryabin, Chopin and Ravel, together with the premiere of new works by Stephen Montague and Gwyn Pritchard. Further information and tickets here
Jenna Sung’s biography