World-renowned conductor Mariss Jansons will lead the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO) during a two-day Beethoven tour in Seoul on Nov. 20-21 at Seoul Arts Center. / Courtesy of Vincero
By Do Je-hae
A number of extraordinary conductors and orchestras have performed in Korea this year, but none have aroused as much excitement as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO) under the direction of Latvian maestro Mariss Jansons.
The BRSO's upcoming concerts on Nov. 20-21 at Seoul Arts Center were voted the most anticipated concert of the year in a survey conducted among editors of Gaeksuk, a local classical music magazine, in January.
Several orchestras from Moscow and St. Petersburg that visited Korea this month invariably brought with them Russian music, but the BRSO will deliver an all-Beethoven programs without any soloist.
For the two upcoming dates in Korea, Jansons has chosen Beethoven symphonies No. 2, No. 3, No. 6, and No. 7.
The BRSO is widely considered the best German orchestra after the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO). The BRSO was rated the highest German orchestra after the Berlin Philharmonic in the 2009 list of Gramophone's world's 20 top orchestras.
What is unique about the BRSO is that it has been able to gain its status in a relatively short time.
Founded in 1949, this young orchestra has had only five chief conductors: Eugen Jochum (1949-1960), Rafael Kubelik (1961-1979), Sir Colin Davis (1983-1992), Lorin Maazel (1993-2002), and Mariss Jansons (2003-present).
Leader in in-house recording market
The latest trend in the classical music industry is the establishment of recording labels by orchestras, with a focus on capturing live performances.
The BRSO, in recent years, has emerged as a leader in the in-house recording label movement. Many of the orchestra's performances are released under BR Klassik.
Under the BR Klassik, Jansons has made acclaimed recordings of masterpieces by Strauss and Tchaikovsky. A recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies will be released next month.
As a public radio station with an estimated 20,000 recordings from the past 60 years in its archives, the BR Klassik has also released hidden treasures previously broadcasted only once on radio.
The Seoul concerts will be a rare opportunity for Korean fans to see Jansons in action.
The 69-year-old firmly stands at the peak of his profession as the musical director of the BRSO and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) of Amsterdam, which is generally considered the top orchestra in the world.
He has built his reputation in a more subdued manner in comparison to his peers like maestros Daniel Barenboim of the Berlin State Opera or Sir Simon Rattle, musical director of the Berlin Philharmonic.
After a lengthy tenure with lesser-known ensembles like the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Oslo Philharmonic, Jansons was named the chief of the BRSO in 2003. The following year, he took the helm of the RCO, sealing his place as one of the most sought-after conductors of his generation. Sir Simon Rattle has proclaimed Jansons "the greatest living conductor."
"Rattle is the Toscanini of our time, universally a household name, while Jansons is our Furtwangler, spiritually immersed in the essence of art," Norman Lebrecht, a renowned music commentator, wrote in La Scena Musicale.
He studied piano and conducting at the Leningrad Conservatory, before moving in 1969 to Vienna to continue training with Hans Swarowsky and in Salzburg with Herbert von Karajan.
Jansons is renowned for his recording cycles of the Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky symphonies. He has lately been concentrating on Beethoven, Mahler and Brahms. Tickets range from 70,000 to 350,000 won. For more information, visit www.vincero.co.kr