William Youn, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Since I first saw the piano at the kindergarten, I somehow immediately felt a strong connection to the instrument and wanted to take piano lessons. My parents didn’t have much knowledge about classical music nor understood what it means to live as a musician. They saw it purely as a hobby. I didn’t actively make a decision to become a musician, I grew towards it.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Many names come into my mind – teachers, mentors, musicians and friends. But I think being on stage is something which influences me the most. When you perform as a soloist you are really on your own. Sometimes it gives you the greatest joy but sometimes it brings you to the darkest depression. But through these extreme experiences, you have the chance to learn about yourself very intensely and truthfully. You get to know your strength, your weakness and the wisdom to be able to let yourself go.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

There is a time, which probably occurs to most musicians after their studies, when you feel lost and don’t know what to do with your life. Suddenly the chances which seemed endless are narrowing down to only a few, you feel fearful and unappreciated. Nobody in the elite music education system taught me about the reality.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

I think my last recording for Sony Classical is something special. It is the most personal of all. I did the cycle of Mozart Sonatas for which I was very much appreciated, but Schumann and Schubert are composers to whom I feel deeply connected.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Works by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, and sometimes Mozart which of course are the most difficult.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I usually match works which I know well together with a few new pieces. I am always eager to learn new music, I like programs which force me to push my limits. For that I am happy that there are so many great pieces written for the piano.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The new Boulezsaal in Berlin is really fantastic; you feel that the hall itself is an instrument. There is no edge in this hall, everything is in flow. I’m very excited to give my debut concert at Wigmore Hall in March. Many of my friends rave about this special hall!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Furtwängler, Cortot and Oistrakh.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Krystian Zimerman and Simon Rattle with Brahms Concerto No.1.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To be true to yourself. Making the audiences trust in your music.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Curiosity. To be humble before the music.

What is your most treasured possession?

My emotions.


William Young makes his Wigmore Hall debut on Monday 11 March with violinist Nils Mönkemeyer in a programme of music by Debussy, Britten, Franck, Mozart and Clarke. Further information and tickets


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