" There is little for a reviewer to say about perfection.
And yet in an age of digital music often streamed through Bluetooth speakers, there is a lot to be said for the experience of witnessing a great artist masterfully play a single instrument in a deeply intimate setting....The most anticipated part of Sohn’s program was Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” Within this hour-long piece of 30 disparate Variations, and with heart-racing agility Sohn captured every possible mood and tempo while evoking the sound of a harpsichord. Though the piece ended with quiet elegance, every note was heartbreakingly earnest. Such an exalted experience is perhaps more than one expects on a sunny afternoon in the liminal space between winter and spring in Kalamazoo. To be stunned by such beauty as this, to feel it in your chest, is the great privilege of truly being alive."
"Mr. Sohn illuminated here with a thoughtfully conceived and poetic interpretation, enhanced by tasteful ornamentation. Mr. Sohn’s crisp articulation rendered the fast, virtuosic numbers a delight, and he imbued the slower sections with an appealing intimacy."
-New York Times
"...These were deeply considered, tightly knit performances in which every bar seamlessly followed another and also filled its right place in the whole. It is virtually impossible to pick his interpretations apart, point to details, and observe that Minsoo Sohn is doing this with the music here and that there. It all seemed consequent and inevitable...His performance stood out for its steady pace and progression, its splendid clarity and consistency of tone, and the elegance of the melodic lines. Playing a modern instrument in the same way he played the Webern and the Brahms, he was able, as I mentioned above, to do justice to modern technique and the Baroque origins of the music. As in the Brahms, Sohn’s approach was so free from mannerisms and so well integrated that it is hard to pick out an single variation in which he seemed to be imposing some intriguing idea of his own on the music. In Bach that doesn’t really work. In its rigor, elegance, and integrity, Minsoo Sohn’s interpretation is the most satisfying I have heard in recent years.'
-New York Arts
“…the Honens international Competition in Calgary, has found a genuine artist in Minsoo Sohn … beautifully articulated, radiant interpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.”
-New York Times
Eleven years after taking second prize in the Cleveland International Piano Competition, South Korean pianist Minsoo Sohn is back with this brilliant recording from Canada's Honens International Piano Competition, which he won in 2006. Playing Bach's keyboard masterpiece, Sohn, now at Michigan State University, proffers a lucid rendition, one conveying virtuosity without flash, lyricism without haze, and substance without bulk. On the long list of "Goldberg" interpreters, Sohn has again earned a place at the top.
-Cleveland plain dealer
His recital Monday night at Jordan Hall was impressive, risk-taking and artistically serious. Sohn plays with a thrilling, personal, hall-filling sound that is also flexible, vocal, and immediate; he was born to play the piano. He began with Schoenberg's Three Piano Pieces, Op.11 , played on a large dynamic and emotional scale (terrifying, actually, in the trills of the second piece) but also with refinement. Liszt's "grandes Etudes de Paganini" are usually reduced to stunts and razzle-dazzle, which is only one element in them. Sohn has more than enough virtuosity for anything, and he may even have slighted the showoff dimension. Sohn's impeccable and noble performances enabled us to hear how beautiful and interesting the music is. One can feel absolutely certain that Sohn is an artist, a man who will create life in music, find listeners, and reward them.
The beauty in Sohn's performance comes from its underlying clear-headedness, blended with a very strong grasp of the playful nature of Baroque dance forms Bach inserts.
The music shimmers with playful light. Bach's contrapuntal textures are as clear and sparkling as a Swarowski store window.
Sohn’s interpretation of a work made iconic by Glenn Gould should prove outstanding, even on first hearing. His performance is a Romantic blend of poetry and well, pure joy.
After a stunning debut disc of Liszt transcriptions, Sohn goes from strength to strength with a recording that stands up to comparisons with the best—yes, even Glenn Gould’s “good standard” 1955 and 1981 recordings. Striking is Sohn’s felicitous mix of singing tone, innate nobility of phrasing, and above all his poetic imagination.
Mr. Sohn’s first CD, Liszt’s transcriptions of works by Bach, Paganini, Beethoven and Mozart is riveting. His newest recording, Bach’s Goldberg Variations—the Everest of young pianists—could earn him a place in the company of the 19 year old Rosalyn Tureck and the 23 year old Glenn Gould.
Minsoo Sohn’s album is dedicated to transcriptions of Bach, Paganini, Beethoven and Mozart by Franz Liszt. The performances are riveting. Mr. Sohn is a virtuosic player: one can understand his devotion to Liszt. Seeing him live in performance in Ottawa this past summer, one recalls a Gouldian presence. His body moves fluidly as he is stirred by his passion for the music, and indeed, for the instrument which he seems at times to be embracing. His hands are poetic, caressing the keys lightly or striking them with great force, but always precisely, and always bringing out subtlety in the phrasing that individualizes the character and feeling of the music. The program on this recording consists mostly of compositions not longer than 5 minutes and offers a rich kaleidoscope of pleasures.
This Korean pianist brings an elegant intensity to four very different sets of pieces by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). Sohn tosses off the fearsome technical challenges without breaking stride, while at the same time elegantly colouring each mood. These are mesmerizing performances of Liszt's reinterpretation of J.S. Bach's famous Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, the Paganini Études, Reminiscences of Don Juan and Beethoven's charming song Adelaïde.
There is no doubt as to his prodigious talent in listening to this all-Liszt recording featuring the 6 Paganini Etudes in addition to transcriptions of music by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. Minsoo Sohn takes these pieces – surely among the most difficult in the repertory – in his stride, displaying a breathtaking technique and the relentless fortitude required of any Liszt player. Yet Sohn’s approach is not all bombast. In pieces such as La Campanella and La Chasse, he demonstrates a particular lightness of touch, his hands seemingly dancing over the keyboard with a shimmering delicacy.
That he has a total physical command of the keyboard is something one can take for granted in a competition winner. What is less common to find in a young performer is the degree of musical finesse and refinement Sohn evinced in his playing.
While the brilliant passagework was astonishing in its precision and clarity, it was also embued with a delicacy and lyricism that was completely captivating. Even in the most powerful passages, Sohn’s tone was warm and ingratiating, drawing the listener deep into Chopin’s magical and personal sound world. This was especially true of the slow movement, one of the young Chopin’s finest, and the heart of this concerto. The finale, playful and joyous, made a fitting conclusion to this most impressive performance.
The centerpiece of the concert, Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, resoundingly confirmed Sohn's strong technique, concentration, feel for cumulative structure, and most important- his deep intuitive grasp of what this sublime and challenging masterpiece is all about.
-American Record Guide
Minsoo Sohn is a pianistic phenomenon and a musical enigma. As might be expected of a spectacular young virtuoso, Sohn was most impressive in the liszt "Fantasies." Bravura show-pieces loosely based on popular themes by classical composers, they bristle with every imaginable-and some unimaginable- instrumental challenges, all of which Sohn surmounted with breath-taking ease.His fingers flew across the keyboard; he shook long octave passages out of his sleeve; his tone went from whispers to rafter-shaking, thoguh semetimes steely power. His affanity for the style- its phrasing, melodic contours, confident virtuosity- was complete.
-New York Concert Review
Sohn projected the ardent aspects of the Schumann concerto with remarkable heat and restraint. His sound was forward and crisp, his command of the temperamental contrasts complete. In the second movement, Sohn set a perfect tempo and underlined the tenderness. He couldn't have been more jubilant in the Finale, which was so full of momentum that Schmann's inspiration received thrilling consideration.
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
An electrified audience leapt to its feet with rapturous applause for his deeply passionate and intellectually mature interpretation of Prokofiev's Concerto No.2.
-The Globe and Mail
Sohn rose to each challenge with mesmerizing clarity of purpose, shaping quiet passages with the greatest of care, while never becoming strident when the music called for grand gestures.
Sohn is a perfect example of the synergistic miracle that can happen between composers and performers – how minds can meet at impossible distances of time and space, and create together.
-Mission City Record
His mature empathy for Kirchner’s late-life introspection and fullness of heart was truly impressive. This brief piece, barely six minutes long, is so rich, and Sohn explored it so deeply that it felt like a major event. Mr. Sohn’s next offering was Beethoven’s Sonata in E Major, Op. 109, which could be the culmination of any substantial recital, but the dreamy opening of the first movement was well prepared by the Kirchner. Using a style of pedaling he can only have learned from Russell Sherman, he brought a full measure of color and atmosphere to the first movement. His variety of tone and wide dynamic range gave a most eloquent voice to Beethoven’s abrupt modulations and mercurial shifts of mood. In the scherzo, Beethoven’s emotions are channeled into a grand, rather angry outburst, before they wander off again into another range of mental states. Sohn gave this all the weight and fullness of sound it required, while coloring the rest with a rich palette. In the concluding variations, his statement of the theme was not as inward as some pianists understand it, but rather full of resigned dignity. After the turbulence of the first two movements, Beethoven, in the variations, arrives at a point of stability, in which his expression can build progressively without straining at inner or outer boundaries. Mr. Sohn’s steady pace and the marked pauses between the variations were reinforced this equilibrium. In the final transcendent variations he showed us Beethoven, not so much floating in higher worlds, but looking up from a firm stance on the ground at the unsurpassed grand vision.
Sohn moved on to an extraordinary reading of Ravel’s La Valse. He was every bit equal to the tonal and formal magnitude of the work, as well as its evanescent colorism. He balanced this, however, with strong accents and a clarity that only the most virtuosic technique can bring.
- The Berkshire Review for the Arts