A native of Seoul, Hwayoon Lee was born in 1996. Exceptionally among major Korean classical musicians, her first instruction came, at age three, not in Western music, but in the traditional Korean folk music genre of Pansori. Lee took up the violin at six, but switched to the viola after discovering the instrument at age nine.
Lee’s path to success was preceded by several important competition victories, beginning with a first prize in the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach, Austria, in 2010. Several later victories included one at Moscow’s International Yuri Bashmet Competition in 2013. These victories led to appearances at numerous festivals, including the Salzburg Festival, Moritzburg Festival and Edinburgh International Festival, as well as concerto performances with a growing list of ensembles including the Moscow Soloists (Yuri Bashmet), Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra (Joana Mallwitz), the Munich Symphony Orchestra (Ken-David Masur), Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra (Michael Francis) and the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra (Krzystof Penderecki). She took lessons with Sang Jin Kim at Seoul’s Yonsei University, studied with Nobuko Imai at Kronberg Academy in Germany, and has
continued to pursue her studies at the UdK (Universität der Künste Berlin) with Ulrich Knörzer.
Beginning in 2011, Lee received support from the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation, and over the 2010s, her involvement with the German violinist deepened. She started touring with Mutter’s Virtuosi in 2012, and the following year she joined Mutter on the viola part in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra in E flat major, K. 364, with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under conductor Manfred Honeck. Lee’s recording debut came in 2017 on Mutter’s Deutsche Grammophon recording of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, also featuring pianist Daniil Trifonov.
Highlights of Lee’s 2020 activities began with her participation on the ‘Stars von Morgen @Home’ project by the European-German TV channel ARTE, 3sat and ZDF. Afterwards, Hwayoon organized an International Online Concert Project via the SBS (Seoul Broadcasting System) YouTube Channel, ‘Video Mug’. She developed this project further and made an appearance in the digital exhibition by the gallery ‘design transfer’ in Berlin. Lee also made her first appearances in the ‘TED Talk- Ideas worth spreading’ in America, as well as the Konzerthaus in Berlin, Germany. In addition to her professional work in musical programs, Lee often performs for younger students, visiting schools, children’s hospitals, and orphanages in an effort to inspire younger generations by sharing her love and enthusiasm for music.
In the 2021-22 season, she will begin her recital tour around Europe with performances of pieces written specifically for her, by composer and Professor at Seoul National University, Shinuh Lee.
Hwayoon Lee currently plays a viola made in 1590 by luthier Gasparo da Saló, generously lent to her by the Samsung Foundation of Culture and the Stradivari Society®.