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Seong-Jin Cho plays Herbst Theatre. San Francisco Chronicle says: 'this guy's an artist'

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Seong-Jin Cho, the 22-year-old South Korean pianist who made an enchanting local recital debut on Tuesday, March 28, burst into view in 2015 with a victory at the International Chopin Piano Competition. But don't let the competition medal fool you.

This guy's an artist.

Appearing in Herbst Theatre under the auspices of Chamber Music San Francisco, Cho showed off all the technical bravura that so often wins contests. He can get around the keyboard in no time flat, he can roll out thunderous chords and flying octaves without missing a step, and he mines the instrument for a wealth of textural detail and finely judged sonorities.

None of that, though, sets him particularly apart from your run-of-the-mill keyboard virtuoso. What Cho boasts, as old-fashioned as this may sound, is a poetic sensibility that evokes the fantastical sound world of the early Romantics.

I suspect that's why the music of Chopin seems to bring out the most revelatory side of Cho's playing (he made his first local appearance in November, giving a superb rendition of the composer's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the touring Warsaw Philharmonic). He approaches the music in a way that makes it sound quasi-improvisational, as though the interpretive choices and shifts in tempo or timing had only just occurred to him.

READ THE FULL San Francisco Chronicle REVIEW