2017 Fellow Fridays, Part Seven, featuring Ji Soo Choi!

Ji Soo Choi


This week, Toronto Summer Music had a chance to sit down with TSM Academy Fellow and violinist, Ji Soo Choi, to discuss her experience at the Festival and Brahms’ String Quintet No. 2 in G major, Op. 111.  Ji Soo performed this piece with her ensemble this past Wednesday July 19 at TSM’s Academy Lunch Concert: Mendelssohn & Brahms.  You can hear Ji Soo next performing Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57 in TSM’s Chamber Music reGENERATION concert on Sat. July 22.

Tell me what it’s been like to put together the Brahms Quintet.

We started putting this big piece together a week ago – and we didn’t know each other. We’ve all got different personalities – some people are timid, and someone like me is outgoing.  So we have to connect with this and see what part of the piece would go well with each person’s traits in playing.  We come from different backgrounds and we’ve studied with different teachers – and it’s not like there’s only one way to play a piece! So putting it together was a lot of work because we had to say yes to some things, but no to others – and it’s never easy to let go of something….When you start to learn these big quartets and quintets by Brahms or Shostakovich, you don’t know where to begin, or know where you’re going – and there’s always a different musical problem to solve. So I try to focus on learning one or two things that help me grow as a musician.

So what did you take away from the Brahms?

Two of the things we worked on were balance and rhythm.  I hadn’t really practiced with a subdivided metronome before – I usually do it in the big beats.  But I started to practice with the metronome set to eighth notes to really get the rhythm precise and be in control of it.

What did you after the performance?

I put the music in my binder and closed it, and said I’m going to eat now! I hadn’t had a very good breakfast that day (so I could fit into my dress), so I just devoured dinner.

As fellows, it sounds like you’ve gone from being strangers to sharing intense learning and performances together in a very short period of time.

We don’t only rehearse together.  We eat together, we come here together, we message each other every day, we say good night to each other…. we will get to play these pieces again, but we won’t get to perform them together again – and I think it will be sad to say good-bye to this bond we’ve formed.

Sitting in the audience, it’s exciting to watch this bond being communicated between you. Have you had the chance to interact with audience members?

I just love talking with people after the concerts. The best part is when someone in the audience is excited to share a memory that they had and they want to share it with us– I really love hearing those.  After one concert we played last year, one gentleman shared with me that his wife really loved the piece, and that they used to dance to it together… We are going to be playing these pieces a lot in our future, so hearing those memories can help us connect with those feelings internally.  That can helps when you’re playing with different people and you need to get the general feeling of the piece….But these are the good vibes we get from the audiences.

What’s it like being mentored by the giants of the violin world?

One of the things I’ve really liked is being able to ask questions about the path I can go on.  Because they’ve been through it all, and they have suggestions they can give. Jonathan Crow has been in a chamber group and an orchestra – and he’s so willing talk to us and guide us… Being comfortable around them helps because you don’t really think of them in terms of a student-teacher – it feels more like colleagues working together.

Who has influenced you in your development as an artist?

For me, there are two people I really look up.  One of them is my mother. She is very driven and likes to get things right and she’s very disciplined –so she inspires me.  There’s also my teacher – she is really a great musician. She catches the audience’s attention from the moment she walks on to the stage.  I’m trying to figure out how she does it without asking her directly. I think I’ll just keep going to her concerts to study the way she walks and the number of times she blinks. Or I’ll ask her when I’m finished studying with her.

What’s been the highlight of the festival for you so far?

The highlight of the first week has been working with James Ehnes and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.  When I was little, I listened to their CD’s constantly.  It’s just a dream come true that they both were here for the past week and a half and I got coaching from these two legends.  Every moment that I got to breathe the same air as theirs, I was crying a little bit on the inside and thinking to myself, I am just so blessed.


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