The Strad described Esther Yoo as “the model of a violin soloist in the modern age. Intelligent, articulate and self-possessed, she is so much more than a technical virtuoso.”
Esther began playing the violin at four-years-old and made her concerto debut aged eight. At sixteen she became the youngest prizewinner of the International Sibelius Violin Competition and two years later was one of the youngest ever prize-winners of the Queen Elisabeth Competition. In 2014 she became a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist and in 2018 was selected as one of Classic FM’s Top 30 Artists under 30. In 2020 WQXR named her one of twenty Artist to Watch.
She performs with leading conductors – including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Myung-Whun Chung, Vasily Petrenko, Thierry Fischer, Karina Canellakis and Andrew Davis – and orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Seoul Philharmonic, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, BBC Symphony and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. She has performed at a range of prominent festivals, including BBC Proms and Aspen Music Festival, and has appeared in recital at Lincoln Center and Wigmore Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra appointed her as their inaugural Artist-in-Residence in 2018, through which she participated extensively in educational and outreach projects, alongside concert performances in London and across the UK.
Esther has recorded the Sibelius, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky concertos for Deutsche Grammophon, who will soon also release her recordings of Bruch and Barber. She featured prominently on the soundtrack and accompanying disc of the feature film, ‘On Chesil Beach’, and is a guest artist on pianist Chad Lawson’s album ‘breathe’, both released by Decca Records and recorded at Abbey Road Studios.
Deutsche Grammophon have also released two recordings by the Z.E.N. Trio, which she founded together with fellow BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists, Zhang Zuo and Narek Hakhnazaryan, and which tours widely in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The first album includes works by Brahms and Dvořák; and is followed by “Burning Through the Cold”, featuring piano trios by Shostakovich, Babajanyan, Rachmaninov and Khachaturian.
Esther may be unique among classical soloists in being fully tri-cultural. She was born and spent her earliest years in the U.S., before receiving her education in Belgium and Germany, but she proudly retains her family’s Korean heritage. Having authentic roots in three continents contributes to her versatility and exceptionally broad range of expression, and is unquestionably a factor in making her one of the most articulate and gifted communicators in the field of classical music.
Recent years have brought many opportunities for Esther to demonstrate those skills. She curated a two-hour special programme for BBC Radio 3 and is frequent contributor to BBC Music Magazine, Gramophone, The Arts Desk, and The Strad, which featured her on the cover of its August 2021 edition. She writes not only about repertoire and practice techniques, but also about less commonly explored areas, such as the mental health and wider well-being of musicians. She hosts a video series on Youtube, ‘Artist Confidential’, where she talks with artists like Miloš, Narek Hakhnazaryan, Lina González-Granados and Julia Bullock on the hopes, fears, and perspectives of artists in the classical music space today. She also created a 3-part video series “Journey Through Violin with Esther Yoo”, in collaboration with Kyobo Nobiliaire Arts & Culture, available to watch in Korean on its YouTube channel.
“Yoo’s ability to shift seamlessly from lyric sweetness to eye-popping technical brilliance, especially in music high at the top of the instrument’s range, paid dividends here.”
“What a magnificent violinist! Not even looking with a magnifying glass did we find the slightest hint of imperfection."
“Esther Yoo is a very original violinist, possesses a very clear phrasing, perfect intonation, and gave Bruch’s concerto that mix of intimacy and folk joy in the last movement, very characteristic of the work.”