Posted : 2013-07-31 16:33
Updated : 2013-07-31 16:33

ECM festival brings icons of piano, oboe

The "ECM Music Festival," featuring star soloists of the German recording label ECM, will take place at Seoul Arts Center on Sept. 3-7.
/ Courtesy of Credia

ECM will hold an exhibition of its key recordings as a side event of the "ECM Music Festival" at a gallery in Insa-dong. Each release of pianist Andras Schiff has been met with great
enthusiasm by fans and critics.
/ Courtesy of ECM
By Do Je-hae

The most anticipated classical music event this season is the upcoming concert of the pianist Andras Schiff and oboist Heinz Holliger, two extraordinary musicians at the pinnacle of their respective professions.

It is not the classical music hub of Vienna, New York or Tokyo but Seoul that will host them in one concert. They will appear with the Seoul Philharmonic under the direction of Chung Myung-whun at Seoul Arts Center on Sept. 7.

What Schiff, Chung and Holliger have in common is their association with the German recording label ECM (Edition of Contemporary Music), which has produced some of the most critically-acclaimed classical music recordings since its establishment in 1959.

The Schiff-Holliger concert is the culmination of the "ECM Music Festival" that will take place from Sept. 3-7.

At age 60, Schiff is a foremost specialist in the Austro-German repertory, with a particular focus on Bach, Schubert and Beethoven. His intellectual, probing approach has brought him unanimous praises from critics and fans alike.

During a Bach program in New York's Carnegie Hall last year, the New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini had said he had been swept away by Schiff's "musical integrity and technical elegance."

At age 60, Schiff continues to play in the world's most important concert venues with top conductors and orchestras. The Hungarian-born British pianist has an impressive discography at Decca and Teldec, but his most important recording legacy is the entire cycle of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas for ECM, which was completed in 2009. The cycle had sealed his reputation as a foremost interpreter of Beethoven's piano music. Coinciding with the recording, he gave a series of lecture-recitals on Beethoven that are still available on the website of The Guardian (

Shiff has held a number of recitals in Seoul, but has never held a concerto performance here. His collaboration with Chung will feature Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor.

They share a bit of a competition history, which launched their international careers. Chung, who was initially a pianist, and Schiff competed together and gave prize-winning performances both in the 1974 International Tchaikovsky Competition and the 1975 Leeds Competition.

The 50-minute Brahms program will be followed by an oboe concerto performance by Holliger, a pioneering oboist who enjoys a rare superstar status as a woodwind player. One of today's most celebrated oboists, the 74-year-old has been the inspiration behind the oboe composition of many important composers of the 20th century, including Olivier Messiaen, Elliott Carter and Witold Lutoslawski.

In Seoul, Holliger will play the oboe concerto by the late German-based Korean composer Isang Yun, who had been friends with Holliger. It was Holliger who premiered Yun's taxing oboe concerto.

Holliger played the piece at a festival in Tongyeong 10 years ago and has not performed in Korea since.

Along with Schiff, Holliger is a key ECM artist, with a wide-ranging discography that includes Bach, Schumann as well as many contemporary composers.

Another highlight of the ECM festival is a Bach recital by Kim Kashkashian who is among the most active violists on the stage today.

Chung, who currently holds regular posts as conductor in Seoul, Paris, Tokyo and Dresden, Germany, is set to become an ECM artist this year. Recent media reports showed that plans are underway for a first-ever solo piano album by the pianist-turned-conductor. The 60-year-old has released many recordings as a conductor, but he has limited his activities as a pianist except to accompany some chamber music or song recitals.

He is yet to release a solo piano album, although he was a promising pianist in his youth as the first Korean to win a medal at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition. ECM is working on the details of the forthcoming recording. It will likely involve the participation of his son Jeong-seon, who is a producer at ECM.

Aside from a series of concerts, ECM will hold an exhibition of its major recordings at the Ara Art Center in Insa-dong from Aug.31 through Nov. 2. Visitors can listen to samples of the recordings on display. ECM Founder and President Manfred Eicher will be in Seoul to lead two sessions to introduce the history of the recording company.

For details of the "ECM Music Festival," visit www.

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