Hayato Sumino is popular on social media, but he has also proven himself to be one of the best pianists in the world thanks to his French mentor, who helped him qualify for the third round of the 18th Warsaw International Chopin Competition.
Sumino, 26, studied under the tutelage of Jean-Marc Luisada, a former fifth Chopin Prize winner, and took his courses online for the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After completing the third round before the final, Sumino traveled to Paris to meet Luisada, who dedicated himself to the protection of freedom as an artist.
They kissed for about 10 seconds without saying a word when they were reunited, Sumino said in an exclusive online interview with The Asahi Shimbun.
“I really felt his love during the competition,” Sumino said of his teacher. “He openly shows his emotions and his genuine empathy for me by sharing my joys and sorrows. The fact that he likes my performance gave me a lot of emotional support, especially from the first to the second round.
Luisada did not qualify for the final of the Chopin Competition in 1980, considered one of the top three piano competitions in the world. He won the fifth prize in the following Chopin Competition in 1985.
Sumino took online classes with Luisada almost daily during this year’s competition.
Sumino said that participating in the Chopin Competition was of great importance in his life as a musician.
“It really is,” he said. “It changed me, I think. Well, maybe nothing has changed. But I know for sure that it was an experience that meant a lot to me.
Sumino has a unique journey. Unlike many classical pianists, he did not educate himself in a world famous music conservatory but studied at the University of Tokyo.
He is also known as Cateen, an influencer, with an impressive 840,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.
Two Japanese won prizes at this year’s Chopin Competition: Kyohei Sorita, 27, who finished second, and Aimi Kobayashi, 26, who placed fourth.
Sumino said he was happy with the results, but he also admitted he wanted to advance to the final round.
“I think I deserved (the results), but I still can’t help but feel like I wanted to play a concerto (in the final),” he said. “I just wanted to play it, whether it’s winning or losing. I have mixed feelings on this subject. “