What would it sound like if Western classical music is played by South Korea’s traditional musical instruments, such as gayageum and saenghwang?
French violist and professor of the University of Suwon Erwan Richard will provide an answer to this question through his concert. He will perform music pieces from the Baroque period to modern times arranged by himself with gayageum and saenghwang at the Recital Hall of the Seoul Arts Center at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
“I have always felt joy from reinterpreting the well-known pieces in a new way,” he said. “I desired to make these songs ‘my own’ by playing them with South Korea’s traditional musical instruments.”
“Lachrimae Pavan” by 17th-century composer Johann Schop will be played by gayageum; “Lachrymae” by Benjamin Britten will be performed by gayageum and saenghwang; and “Cantata No. 5” by Johann Sebastian Bach and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s “Fantasia” will be played by gayageum, saenghwang, and cello. Gayageum player Lee Hwa-young and saenghwang player Kim Hyo-young will be featured on the stage as well. Cellist Park No-eul, Professor Richard’s wife, will join him to showcase the duet performance of Rameau’s suite for violin and cello.
“I met Lee Hwa-yeong and Kim Hyo-yeong while playing music created by South Korean composers,” the violist said. “As I learned about the beauty of South Korean musical instruments from the two, I wanted to play the old western pieces with these instruments.”
Vibratos, or “Nonghyeon” in Korean, expressed with gayageum by pressing a string deeply with the left hand to make subtle changes to pitch add unique flavors that are distinguished from Western musical instruments. “Nonghyeon and other distinctive characteristics of South Korean instruments will be all incorporated to create interesting effects,” the professor said with a smile. He discussed the details of arrangements with the other two players to bring better results.
Professor Richard will also perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s quartets arranged for a viola recital and a chamber orchestra with the Hwaum Chamber Orchestra.
The French musician met his wife while studying in Germany. He was serving as a principal violinist of the Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra in Austria and moved to Seoul in 2008 on sabbatical. He said one of the reasons why he decided to stay in South Korea is because the warmth of the people can be felt in the country.