Germany’s Staatskapelle Dresden, celebrating 475 years of establishment as one of the oldest orchestras in the world, is visiting Korea to present six concerts, four of which will be accompanied by Korea’s star pianist Cho Seong-jin. Maestro Chung Myung-whun, who has been the orchestra’s first-ever principal guest conductor since 2012, will be standing on the podium.
“We are so excited to be in Korea, the orchestra’s first Asian country since the pandemic,” said Adrian Jones, head of the orchestra, on Thursday during the press conference held at the Geoam Art Hall in southern Seoul. “I’m especially looking forward to discovering the audience here because I was able to witness swarms of young female audience members during our concert with Cho recently in Dresden.”
According to Jones, the Staatskapelle Dresden concerts in its hometown is usually attended by older generations. But when the orchestra recently performed with Cho, the first three rows were filled with young female Asians, shocking both the orchestra and the usually gray-haired concertgoers in Dresden.
“I was also amazed at how there were so many families with young kids visiting the National Museum of Korea when I made a visit yesterday,” said Jones, adding that he was amazed to see culture being enjoyed by the younger generation here and that he can’t wait to see what the audiences are like for all six concerts, with and without Cho.
Cho will accompany the orchestra for four concerts, starting at the Sejong Art Center in Sejong City on Thursday, followed by the Lotte Concert Hall in southern Seoul on Friday, Art Center Incheon, which is located in Songdo, Incheon, on Saturday, and lastly the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul on Sunday.
During the four-day concert, they’ll perform Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 23,” Schubert’s “Symphony No. 8, ‘Unfinished,’ D. 759,’” and Weber’s “Overture to ‘Der Freischutz.’”
The program will be basically the same for the four concerts, except for at Art Center Incheon, where the orchestra will perform Brahms “Symphony No. 1” instead of Schubert and Weber.
Without the star pianist, the orchestra will perform the complete cycle of Brahms Symphony over the course of two days at the Seoul Arts Center on March 7 and 8.
Chung will be conducting all six concerts.
Usually, the orchestra makes a stop in Korea for a couple of concerts during its Asian tour. But this time, the orchestra has flown all the way from Germany solely for the six concerts in Korea. That, according to Chung, is “a testament to the rise in the standard of classical music in Korea.”
“I am so glad Korea is up to the level where we are now able to invite such a renowned orchestra to perform for our country, rather than as part of a tour,” said Chung. “It means that we have audience members that can accommodate such a renowned orchestra as well as world-class artists who can accompany such an orchestra.”
Jones said there’s a special reason for the orchestra’s visit to Korea this year, which is to celebrate Chung’s 70th birthday.
“We wanted to celebrate Chung’s 70th birthday in his home country,” said Jones. “Chung has been like a godfather for the orchestra members. The orchestra loves working with Chung. I think it’s because he gives them space, he lets them breathe, he gives them impulse and he waits — there’s a lot of trust, a mutual trust between the members and the maestro, which is not always there with great conductors.”
Founded in 1548 by Maurice, Elector of Saxony, as an ensemble for the royal court, the orchestra has had close ties with renowned composers such as Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner, who served as concert master. In 20th century, Richard Strauss was both a conductor and composer for the orchestra and premiered several works.
“The orchestra also loves working with Chung because he taps into this history of the orchestra,” said Jones.
Cho, who attended the press conference on Thursday, said he is honored to have performed together with the Staatskapelle Dresden recently and once again in Korea, and that he’s gotten the impression that the orchestra is “indeed one of the best in Germany, but also the world.”
Cho said he also hopes to listen to the orchestra’s performance of the complete cycle of the Brahms Symphony.
Chung says him conducting the Brahms cycle for the Staatskapelle Dresden is quite significant because there are certain things that can’t be achieved without plenty of time.
“No matter how much we prepare, rehearse and study, there are some things that can only be understood with time,” said Chung. “For example, I’ve conducted ‘Brahms Symphony No. 1’ countless times. Maybe about after a decade of doing it, I could really understand and digest the meaning behind every note. For No. 4, it took me more than a decade. I think I was 50 when I finally felt that my No. 4 sounds natural.”
Chung said it’s the same for him and the orchestra. During the past 10 years with the orchestra, he came to really understand the members and its sound.
Though the baton he holds does not make a sound itself, the orchestra members often come up to Jones and tell him that “they feel like they are making a chamber of music together when working with Maestro Chung.”
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [firstname.lastname@example.org]