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Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra: Michael Francis and Yekwon Sunwoo

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Friday, April 12 at 7:30 PM
Smith Opera House
Geneva Concerts

Michael Francis, Conductor
Yekwon Sunwoo, Piano

Walton: Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Minor
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30

Gold medalist of the Fifteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, 28-year-old pianist Yekwon Sunwoo has been hailed for “his total command over the instrument and its expressiveness” (San Francisco Examiner). A powerful and virtuosic performer, he also, in his own words, “strives to reach for the truth and pure beauty in music,” and hopes to convey those fundamental emotions to audiences.

Born in Anyang, South Korea, Mr. Sunwoo began learning piano at age 8. He gave both his recital and orchestra debuts in 2004 in Seoul before moving to the United States in 2005 to study with Seymour Lipkin at the Curtis Institute of Music. He earned his bachelor’s degree there, his master’s at The Juilliard School with Robert McDonald, and his artist diploma at the Mannes School of Music with Richard Goode. He currently studies under Bernd Goetzke in Hannover.

The first Korean to win Cliburn gold, Mr. Sunwoo launched his debut season in 2017–2018 with invitations to the Aspen, Grand Teton, and Duszniki International Music Festivals. Recitals will take him to Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, and he undertakes a nine-city tour of the United States with the National Orchestra of Cuba in the spring. In Europe, Mr. Sunwoo makes his United Kingdom concerto debut with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Jose Luis Gomez, appears in the first full season at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, and performs in Brussels, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Madrid, Helsingborg, and across Germany. His appearances in Asia include those in Beirut, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and across South Korea.

Record label Decca Gold released Cliburn Gold 2017 two weeks after his Cliburn win, which includes his award-winning performances of Ravel’s La valse and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Sonata. The album reached #1 on the Traditional Classical Album Billboard charts.

In addition to the Cliburn gold medal, Mr. Sunwoo has won first prizes at the 2015 International German Piano Award in Frankfurt, the 2014 Vendome Prize held at the Verbier Festival, the 2013 Sendai International Music Competition, and the 2012 William Kapell International Piano Competition.

A self-proclaimed foodie, Mr. Sunwoo enjoys finding pho in each city he visits and takes pride in his own homemade Korean soups. His dream gig: Either the Berlin Philharmonic or the New York Philharmonic, performing Brahms Concerto No. 1, with Sir Simon Rattle.

Michael Francis has quickly established himself internationally. Known for maintaining a diverse repertoire while paying particular homage to the composers of his native Britain, Francis enjoys great reception throughout North America, Europe and Far East Asia.

Last season, Francis debuted with Berlin Radio Symphony, Philharmonia, Minnesota and Pacific Symphony orchestras. He returned to Komische Oper Berlin, Seoul Philharmonic, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis Symphony orchestras. Previous guest and return appearances in North America have included Cleveland Orchestra, New York, Cincinnati, Houston, Atlanta and Pittsburgh, as well as the symphonies of Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. In the UK, his has worked with London Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC Scottish Symphony.

After several years as a tenured double-bass player in the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), he came to prominence as a conductor in January 2007, replacing an indisposed Valery Gergiev for concerts with the LSO during the BBC’s Gubaidulina festival at the Barbican Centre. Just one month later, Francis was asked, this time with only two hours’ notice, to replace the composer/conductor John Adams in a performance of his own works with the LSO with the Philharmonie Luxembourg. Soon after in January 2009, he replaced André Previn leading a German tour of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony with Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Now entering his fourth season as Music Director of The Florida Orchestra, Michael Francis’ contract has already been extended to 2021. He is also Music Director of the Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego, where he has launched an ambitious multi-year exploration of Mozart’s life.

Francis makes his home outside of Tampa, FL with his wife Cindy and two-year-old daughter Annabella.

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