Q&A with Cellist Claire Deokyong Kim ’21: “Music is not just a sound, but it is a feeling.”

Claire Deokyong Kim ’21 shares reflections on performing Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 in E–flat Major with NEC Philharmonia as the winner of NEC's 2019 spring concerto competition.

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Tell us about your relationship with the piece, Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 in E–flat Major.

Claire Deokyong Kim plays the cello with an expression of emotion on her face.
Claire Deokyong Kim in rehearsal with NEC Philharmonia.

Shostakovich is one of my favorite composers and his Cello Concerto No. 1 is a very special piece for me because it made me explore another level of technique and musicality. When I first heard the piece on recordings, it was very shocking and magnificent, which led me to think that I definitely have to play with the orchestra one day. I don't really remember exactly when, but I bought the music and started reading it because I was eager to play this great piece.

When I was 17, I was preparing a competition with this piece. The journey? It was not easy at all. This piece is one of the hardest concertos because it is such a strong powerful piece that it asks a lot of energy from the performer.

Moreover, it challenges you to keep the tension until the end of the movement. However, because of its characteristics, it is always super exciting to play this piece with the orchestra.

Why is music important? What do you hope to offer audiences when you perform?

I think music is important because it helps people express emotion like nothing else can. Music is not just a sound, but it is a feeling; an emotion which connects us to the world around us. That is what I am pursuing in my musical career and I cannot imagine a life without it.

Years ago, my focus, when I played for the audience, was to play perfectly. But now, I try to express myself, to connect with audience and enjoy the performance. That is what I am looking forward to myself: a musician who makes audiences enjoy what they hear and moves their mind.

How are you spending your time this summer? What are you looking forward to next year?

This summer, I went to the Orford Music Festival to study with Mr. Claret and Mr. Lesser. It is always an amazing experience to meet new people around the world who [are pursuing] the same path and to make music with them at a great festival.

This coming year, I will be starting to prepare for graduate school to continue my musical career, even though I have two more years of undergraduate education. In this process, I am looking forward to building up my path and learning more repertoire.

Claire Deokyong Kim smiles and receives applause after her performance of Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 in E–flat Major with NEC Philharmonia as the winner of NEC's 2019 spring concerto competition.