“Hello, Mrs. Mutter! Can I ask you a few questions now?” so violist Hwayoon Lee rushes up to Anne-Sophie Mutter, and the violinist, who has just been playing herself in on stage, answers just as cheerfully and enthusiastically as she is asked, “Hello! Of course!”
One learns personal things from the world star: that she gets herself physically active before concerts, which can be anything from snowshoeing to mountain hiking and also bodybuilding, the main thing is “that a lot of sweat flows!” Hwayoon Lee conducted 20 interviews for Amory University Atlanta’s 20th anniversary social media release on her final tour in January 2023 with “Mutter’s Virtuosi,” which included seven concerts from Iceland to Canada to the United States. The violist from Korea also demonstrates great talent and passion for this form of communication.
With a letter to Anne-Sophie Mutter in 2009, the life path of music enthusiast Hwayoon Lee, whose grandfather owned a large record collection, changed decisively.
Already in Korea, she played chamber music in public concerts at the age of 9, performing with her teacher Sang-Jin Kim and his music ensemble. After her first solo concerts in Korea, she won the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach in 2010 and thus received an invitation to the festival “Musica in Collina” in Lapedona, Italy in 2011. In February 2013 she won 1st prize at the 7th International Yuri Bashmet Competition in Moscow and in the same year she was awarded the “Elba Festival Prize 2013” at his festival on Elba.
Anne-Sophie Mutter’s foundation enabled Hwayoon Lee to come to Germany in 2014 with an international education as a professional musician. The star violinist was a great role model for the violist in every respect. On the advice of Anne-Sophie Mutter, the young violist first undertook a European cultural tour (including Vienna, Salzburg and Bonn) with her grandfather before moving to Germany. Subsequently, she attended the Kronberg Academy – supported by the “Freundeskreis Anne-Sophie Mutter Stiftung e.V.” – and studied there with Prof. Nobuko Imai from 2017 to 2019. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
With growing enthusiasm, Hwayoon Lee is expanding her repertoire and taking on ever greater technical-musical challenges (from Brahms to Ligeti). In doing so, she shows her own viola voice in an extremely subtle and courageous way. This is characterized by an impressive lightness, virtuosity, a warm sonority and a presence rarely found in young female musicians. The secret: she learned the art of pansori, a special “art of storytelling,” and was celebrated with it as a three-year-old when she performed on stage with pansori master Jung-Hae Oh. Today she likes to present her concerts and fascinates with her stories, which she developed not least by reading Erich Kästner, Schiller and Goethe.
At the end of 2024, Hwayoon Lee will complete her studies with Prof. Rohde at the University of the Arts in Berlin with the concert exam. In her musical repertoire, Hwayoon Lee pays careful attention to a fruitful alternation between the seminal heritage of cultures: with the Korean National Orchestra she performs viola concertos for traditional Korean instruments and viola, with Mutter’s Virtuosi she likes to perform classics such as Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, and with a pianist she plays chamber music Shinuh Lee, among others.
Hwayoon Lee played for eight years on a viola by Gasparo de Salò from 1590. (On loan from the Samsung Foundation and the Stradivarius Society of Chicago). She plays her current viola courtesy of J&A Beare.