Younggun Kim performs at Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu

Younggun Kim’s performances have been known for their “technical capacity and a lush sound” with concerts spanning all across North America and Europe. This Saturday, a special inaugural concert will be taking place where the Korean-Canadian pianist will allow audiences to experience a new performance space in the Yorkville area.

Couturier Rosemarie Umetsu, for many years, has opened her atelier doors to artists and opera singers having organized countless intimate concerts. With a brand new location and in partnership with Yamaha Canada, Kim’s recital will be the first of many to come in this brand new chapter.

With his performance attire also being prepared by Umetsu (as he will also be debuting a brand new Yamaha piano)piani, we chatted with Royal Conservatory alum about his upcoming musical presentational and of course, a little fashion.

MC: What’s your approach when performing intimate recitals in comparison to playing at Roy Thomson or Walter Hall?

YK: An intimate space means less distance between me and the audience, which gives me a chance to communicate with them in a way that is unique to such spaces. It is an interesting sensation as a performer that it feels as if I’m playing in a private gathering, surrounded by my friends. It is also possible to verbally communicate with the audience more easily in such a setting; from explaining the background of the next piece to cracking some jokes, playing for a smaller crowd is a great opportunity to connect closely with the public – more so if one doesn’t need a microphone. Lastly, the characteristics of a more intimate space enable a whole other palette that is not necessarily accessible in a large hall; even the smallest nuances will not be lost to the public, and while it isn’t feasible to stuff an entire Wagner production in a 150-people space, such a venue is quite ideal for solo piano and chamber music.

In a way, this is similar when comparing a public lecture and a seminar class. Both have their respective virtues. I’m really looking forward to this Saturday’s session.

MC: Share more details about the evening’s program.

YK: It’s a mixture of popular pieces, rarely played gems, and rarely played versions of these popular works. Every piano enthusiast will recognize the two Chopin works that I have programmed; however, they may not be familiar with Godowsky, who rewrote many of Chopin’s works including his Etudes. Godowsky’s pieces are new works using Chopin’s pieces as a starting point and they deserve to be played more than they are. The practical problem is that Godowsky’s works are, because of his affinity for polyphonic writing, complex harmonic language and his adventurous spirit, considered to be some of the most difficult piano music to play. Imagine playing two Chopin Etudes simultaneously – and that’s exactly what one of the pieces I’ll be playing is about. Also interesting are the Kapustin set; unlike the rest of the program, Kapustin’s musical language is jazz; they are very exciting and quite honestly, always great fun to play. I am happy to say that they have proven themselves to be audience favourites too. I am also playing pieces by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Liszt; they are well-known pieces but for a variety of reasons not often performed in public.

MC: Finally, tell us more about your personal style and what fashion means to you both as a musical stage performer.

YK: I always try to dress myself according to the occasion. I believe that how I look is very important in creating a persona on the stage, and it is not disconnected from what I try to convey aurally; after all, you will be ‘seen’ as well as heard on the stage. So far my efforts in fashion have been concentrated on dressing myself in a way to show the same seriousness and dedication that I give to my music; maybe it is time for me to move ahead!

Mozart 261

As Mozart turns 261, another TSO festival has begun in honour of the great composer. Starting 2017 with a bang, we had the pleasure of attending “Magnificent Mozart” featuring violinist Kerson Leong and 14 year-old pianist Leonid Nediak. Conductor Peter Oundjian put on his ‘Mozart Hat’ and led with the utmost passion as always.

Kerson Leong, Peter Oundjian_2 (@Jag Gundu)

Kerson Leong with Peter Oundjian (Photo courtesy of Jag Gundu)

Leonid Nediak (@Jag Gundu)

Leonid Nediak (Photo courtesy of Jag Gundu)


More performance will follow this month as Mozart @ 261 continues with:

For more information visit and celebrate the wonder of Mozart

The artist and the symphony (part two)

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra wants us all to “escape into music” as they open a new season tomorrow evening with glamorous soprano Renée Fleming. If you have paid attention to their advertising campaigns you will notice another theme – escaping into the illustrations that are their fantastic promotions.

From TTC posters to social media, the works of  Toronto-based artist Alanna Cavanagh are everywhere. As the second part to last week’s post, we dive once again into the visual world and explore its marketing influence.

By collaborating with branding company Haft2, artists like Alanna were sought out to provide the ultimate “balance of sophistication and quirkiness mixed with classic and modern”. In addition, the TSO’s program guides, Key, feature a piece of Canadian artwork in every guide, giving the opportunity for local talent to gain exposure.

As a marketer and cultural advocate, I get goosebumps when seeing campaigns look so ‘harmoniously’ in line with their branding and messaging.

For more information about the TSO’s 16/17 season visit 

Photo credits: Alanna Cavanagh (@alanna_cavanagh)

A Shakespeare Serenade

Two years ago, to mark his 460th anniversary, an international survey[1] was released sharing results based on the following question – to name the number one person people associated with contemporary UK arts and culture. William Shakespeare.

This year’s theme for Toronto Summer Music would not be complete without paying musical tributes to this unforgettable icon. His plays and poems have inspired more music than any other English-language author.

Tomorrow evening, Patrick Hansen will direct A Shakespeare Serenade. Young singers from across the country will channel every facet of the music and texts through musical settings by composers such as Britten, Verdi and others. A unique concert like this should not be missed and here are a few more reasons why.

patrick hansen

MC: What is the beauty in directing a performance such as this one with such a rich and dynamic group of artists?

PH: Each of the singers are individual artists, varied in their experience and talent, so that usually creates a lovely “garden” of performers who each bring something to the table. This program is unique in that all of the singers are present on the stage while each sings a song. They are creating imaginary relationships between each other and the songs’ texts. The pianists are also present in the space – not off to the side – and so they become part of the interaction between the players. Some of the singers have performed often together, some only know each other. This performance is giving them a chance to get to know each other better as singing actors.

MC: How do you get in inspired when interpreting Shakespeare through the works of Barber, Britten, Finzi, Gounoud, Tippett and Verdi?
PH: My inspiration as a director starts with the music. My inspiration as a conductor and pianist, when dealing with opera and song, is oftentimes more focused on the text than the music.  I try to look at both through these two lenses with equanimity. In this program, it is Shakespeare’s voice that is the most present – overriding the composers’ as a group. However, one of the exciting things about the program is that it looks at a few texts multiple times (“Come Away Death”, for example where we feature Quilter’s, Korngold’s and Finzi’s take on the text), and we also play with gender, which adds a different subtextual view not necessarily found when these songs are sung by one performer.

MC: When you hear ‘Shakespeare and Music’, what 3 to 5 words first come to mind?

PH: I hear the obvious: If music be the food of love…

But actually, my mind turns to four words:


[1] (2014, April 23).  Shakespeare ‘a cultural icon’ abroad. Retrieved from