Seoul Philharmonic to perform in London

January 17, 2014
Conductor Chung Myung-whun speaks during a press conference in Seoul, Thursday. (AP-Yonhap)

Conductor Chung Myung-whun speaks during a press conference in Seoul, Thursday. (AP-Yonhap)

By Do Je-hae

The last time Chung Myung-whun stood on the podium of London’s Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms was at a 2002 performance with the “Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France,” a Paris-based ensemble he has led since 2000.

His next visit to the prestigious BBC Proms will be with his Korean orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) on Aug. 27. No Korean orchestra has ever been invited to the BBC Proms, an eight-week classical music festival that has traditionally invited the world’s foremost orchestras and soloists.

The only other Asian orchestra to perform at the exquisite venue is Tokyo’s NHK Symphony. “The NHK has a long history and has excellent players,” SPO music director Chung Myung-whun said in a press conference, Thursday.

SPO’s invitation to the BBC Proms is a sign that his orchestra is gaining more international recognition. “An invitation to the BBC Proms is possible only if the orchestra can perform at a high level,” Chung said.

The world’s foremost orchestras and soloists have perfromed at the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. (Korea Times file)

The world’s foremost orchestras and soloists have perfromed at the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. (Korea Times file)

Under his leadership, the orchestra has achieved significant growth musically and commercially. It is the first Asian orchestra to sign a recording contract with the prestigious German classical label Deutsche Grammophon (DG) in 2011. The contract enables the SPO to record two albums every year until 2015.

“I was worried about the recordings at first. But we’re getting better. The Mahler 9th we recorded last year is something not many orchestras do these days. Our musicians prepared really well and the result is very good. I think it is the best recording we have done yet,” Chung said.

The orchestra will give performances at the Edinburgh Festival and other festivals in Finland, Austria and Italy. “We have managed to organize international tours year after year,” Chung said.

The SPO and Chung have worked together since 2006. The 61-year-old maestro is in the last stages of his tenure with the orchestra. His term will end in 2015 and has said he will not seek to extend his tenure beyond his current contract.

Many credit the SPO with bringing new depth to the symphonic concerts, particularly through projects like the Mahler symphony cycle, a rare feat that only a few Korean orchestras have been able to undertake.

The orchestra has also conducted new projects, such as brass and composition masterclasses.

Chung will conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in May.

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