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03 March 2023
If in my previous recording of Mozart Concertos I tried to say something valid and truthful, albeit sincere, with this album I wanted to simply be.
For me, Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 24 and 25 are a testament to the beauty and imperfection of the human experience and about finding joy and meaning in the midst of pain and hardship.
Even though they are considered today to have pushed the boundaries of the genre, the premiere of the 24th concerto in 1786 left listeners puzzled and uneasy. It wasn’t an opera, yet it sounded like one. What was a piece of passionate lament doing in a solo concerto expected to dazzle more than move audiences? By the time he wrote the 25th, unapologetically symphonic in scope, Mozart had lost enough subscribers that he had to postpone his performance by an entire season. The concerto would not be performed again until nearly 150 years later by Arthur Schnabel.
Musicologists have since speculated about the reasons for this abandonment. Perhaps it was the public's fickle taste, or Austria’s economic crisis, or perhaps it was both. But the reason that makes most sense to me: Mozart’s artistic development alienated his listeners.
At the cost of losing his audience Mozart was trying – as we all do – to re-align with himself, and be himself more truthfully, more succinctly, more unapologetically. But finding confidence in vulnerability somehow became the story of this album – not just Mozart’s, but also my own.
American pianist Ben Kim’s performances have been praised by the Süddeutsche Zeitung as “practically euphoric and filled with vitality.“ He has garnered critical acclaim for his performances worldwide, at renowned venues including Carnegie Hall, Concertgebouw, Musikverein, Gewandhaus, Suntory Hall, and the Kennedy Center with orchestras such as the Bavarian Radio, German Radio, Baltimore, Seoul Philharmonic, and St Petersburg Hermitage State Symphonies.
Ben was the recipient of the Rheingau Musik Festival's 2017 LOTTO Career Development Prize. The international jury panel made its decision upon the following stated reasons: "His brilliant technique and his incredible flair for interpretive refinement are self-evident....an exceptional phenomenon among pianists his generation - such a natural, sympathetic charisma and pleasant modesty, coupled with great virtuosity, are rarely experienced with a leading musician.” In 2014 he was one of six recipients selected among a pool of more than 13,000 graduates at the Johns Hopkins University to be awarded an Outstanding Recent Graduate Award for outstanding achievement or service in any professional field.
His career was first launched after having won First Prize at the prestigious ARD Munich International Music Competition for Piano in 2006.
Ben’s first album of Mozart Concertos on Challenge Classics was won over by critics, as an “innovative, inspiring and energetic debut” (Luister), “magical” (Stretto), and an “album to return to regularly” (Nederlands Dagblad). His recording of the Chopin Préludes and Impromptus released on Universal Decca was given an Editor’s Choice selection by Record Geijutsu. “Without nervousness or over-excitement, without boasting technique or exaggeration,” the critic describes of the album, “Kim plays Chopin’s music as if he were breathing it.”
Ben was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, where he began studying piano at age five with Dorothy Fahlman. He made his solo debut at age eight and his orchestral debut at twelve. At age 20, Ben received his Bachelor’s degree at the Peabody Conservatory as a student of Leon Fleisher. He continued his studies at Peabody with Yong Hi Moon after graduating. In addition Ben was selected to attend the International Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy, a program for seven pianists, headed by Martha Argerich and William Grant Naboré. He finished his studies at the Berlin University of Arts with Klaus Hellwig.
Ben is a longtime member of the German Alpine Society (Deutsche Alpenverein) and resides in Berlin.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose actual name is Joannes Chrysotomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a composer, pianist, violinist and conductor from the classical period, born in Salzburg. Mozart was a child prodigy. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Along with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart is considered to be one of the most influential composers of all of music's history. Within the classical tradition, he was able to develop new musical concepts which left an everlasting impression on all the composers that came after him. Together with Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven he is part of the First Viennese School. At 17, Mozart was engaged as a musician at the Salzburg court, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position. From 1763 he traveled with his family through all of Europe for three years and from 1769 he traveled to Italy and France with his father Leopold after which he took residence in Paris. On July 3rd, 1778, his mother passed away and after a short stay in Munich with the Weber family, his father urged him to return to Salzburg, where he was once again hired by the Bishop. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his death.