Cellist Zlatomir Fung, left, and pianist Benjamin Hochman perform at Coral Shores High School’s Performing Arts Center in January. CONTRIBUTED

By Asta Kraskouskas 

Florida Keys Concert Association presented its second concert of the season at Coral Shores and Marathon high schools with Zlatomir Fung on Jan. 22-23. He’s the youngest cellist to win first prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition; in the Keys, he played with acclaimed pianist and conductor Benjamin Hochman.  

The evening’s program included music of Robert Schumann, a 19th century German romantic; Marshall Estrin, a 21st century New York-based modern classic; Benjamin Britten, a 20th century British classic, and Sulkhan Tsintsadze, a 20th century Georgian classic. The four compositions had one thing in common — they all had five movements. Fung explained that for a long time he had an idea of playing a program of five movements. 

“A composer has to put an extra effort to compose five movements,” Fung said. 

Fung, of Bulgarian and Chinese heritage, was born into a family of mathematicians. He is the second youngest in the family. Of the three other siblings, only the youngest brother plays music. The cellist’s hobbies are movies and playing chess. His cello is a rare Domenico Montagnana instrument of circa 1729.  

Fung’s musical mission has three aspects. First, he loves playing music as a craft. Second, Fung loves sharing interesting music. Third is to have a special  experience — a space that happens between him and the audience. The 24-year-old cellist has already proven himself a star among the next generation of world-class musicians. At the concert, he executed every composition, every movement, every sound with intense emotion. 

“I enjoyed the depth of the talent,” Cynthia Finamore, a season ticket holder, said.  

Hochman’s mission is to make great art. He plays solo recitals, concerts, chamber music and conducts orchestras. Hochman claims that he loves music and loves making it at the highest level.  

Hochman was born and raised in Israel. He has one elder brother, a mathematician. His parents are professors of literature. Hochman’s hobbies include running, cooking and spending time with friends and family. As a soloist, he loves playing Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven and Brahms.  

During the concert, Hochman was technically and emotionally connected with Fung’s playing in  such a manner that it impressed everyone. 

Hochman said contemporary music is very broad. Sometimes it takes time to listen to it for the second time.  

“There are a few factors. There is a factor of fear. Try to be open. Not immediately have an opinion. Try to have an experience. It is important to keep an open mind,” he said.  

Fung said it is important to play new contemporary composers. 

“You never know, will a new music work be liked? Sometimes there is no choice. If the composition is commissioned, we have to play it. The most important thing for contemporary music is to be played by a second person. (It says something  when) the piece is picked up by someone else and is played again.” 

Fung said that 10 years ago, he heard the Georgian composer Tsintsadze’s musical work for the first and only time. It sounded very dear to him. The cellist loved it so much that it became one of the few pieces that he wanted to play himself. That was the very last musical composition that the audience had a chance to hear and enjoy.  

The next concerts will feature the Balourdet String Quartet on Monday, Feb. 12 at Marathon High School and Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Coral Shores High School. The concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. Visit for more information.