Seoul Phil embarking on overseas tour
By Do Je-hae
The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) and its music director Chung Myung-whun are renewing their mission to elevate the global status of Korea’s classical ensembles through a fresh overseas tour.
The orchestra announced Monday that it will hold a special concert Aug. 9 to celebrate the forthcoming launch of their second
European tour Aug. 19 to 27. The SPO will also travel to Japan and North America during the 2011/2012 concert season.
Like last year, their European tour is sponsored by Hyundai Motor.
Overseas tours have played a central part in the growth of the SPO, musically and mentally, for the nation’s oldest classical music orchestra.
“Many critics and fellow musicians whom I spoke to were highly impressed. These tours are crucial in boosting the orchestra’s morale,” Chung said in a promotional video.
The orchestra has been invited to some of Europe’s most respected musical festivals this year, including the Edinburgh International Festival, the Musikfest Bremen and the Robeco Summer Series at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, home to the prestigious Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
Their program will include French masterpieces that have long been associated with Chung including Messiaen’s “Les Offrandes
Oubliees,” Debussy’s “La Mer” and Ravel’s “La Valse.”
They will also introduce a concerto for orchestra and a traditional Chinese wind instrument “Sheng” by German-based Korean composer Chin Unsuk, who is the SPO’s composer-in-residence.
Also, a large portion of their program will be devoted to Russian music, such as Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Tchaikovsky’s sixth and final symphony “Pathetique” and Stravinsky’s “Firebird.”
Chung has been playing Tchaikovsky symphonies regularly in recent years, particularly the tragic sixth in B minor and tempestuous 4th in F minor, not just with the SPO but also his French orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.
Reflecting his penchant for Russian music, he has chosen to record Tchaikovsky symphonies and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition for his upcoming DG recording with the SPO.
On July 15, they became the first Asian orchestra to release a recording from DG, the world’s foremost recording company.
Chung is also a specialist of the Austrian symphonist Mahler. He will lead the SPO in a performance of Mahler’s first symphony “Titan” at Tokyo’s Suntory Hall Jan. 16, 2012.
Additionally, the SPO will present a program of French and Russian works during a U.S. tour in April 2012 in Seattle, Santa Barbara and the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, where Chung launched his conducting career in 1979 as assistant to the Italian maestro Carlo Maria Giulini (1914-2005).
An exclusive DG artist since the early 1990s, Chung has recorded with some of the top orchestras in the world from Berlin, Amsterdam and Vienna, and has worked as the musical director of major French and Italian orchestras and opera houses.
Last year, he led the SPO on a nine-city European tour, the first for a Korean orchestra, gaining encouraging reviews. They performed in Berlin, Bologna, St. Petersburg and Prague.
“A world-class Korean orchestra perfectly mastered Debussy and Brahms. What we heard was clearly a world class orchestral performance,” the Berliner Morgenpost wrote.
The Markische Oderzeitung described the SPO as “a landscape painted by an orchestra from the Far East. They are the top of the world.”