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Masur, Historic Performance Ending with Titanic

Posted July. 03, 2002 22:49,   


Kurt Masur near the end of his term as conductor of New York Philharmonic Orchestra visited Korea with his band. On July 1, he finished his program with Beethoven’s symphony No. 5 Schicksal (i.e. Hero), on 2nd, Mahler’s symphony No. 1 Titanic. The encore he played on July 1st was Egmont which was an epic inspired by the heroic figure “Geothe.” It does not take long to understand the theme symbolized by this repertoire.

His predecessor, Zubin Mehta, led the Orchestra only to harsh criticism. Some people even said its play was a hollering by 100 people. Masur, as a conservative traditional German trainer, rejuvenated the elasticity of sound, comparable to other renowned orchestras around the world. Only in terms of sound, the July 2nd performance was more satisfying due to the brass band of 4 instruments. The July 1st performance failed to convey the full appreciation of Schicksal. Seijong Cultural Center, gigantic auditorium, sucked up the beautiful sound of horns, which were located in the back rows.

In the July first performance, Helen Hwang, a Chinese pianist, joined the Orchestra. She showed a new aspect. In her previous performances in Seoul, she earned a nickname “Mozart specialist.” This time, she played with the orchestra the Shostakovich’s piano concerto NO. 2, which features coolness, resilience and improvisation. Her fingers’ movement was full of energy, but short of accents, creating instability and breach of harmony with the orchestra. Hwang also played, in her encore, part of Mendelssohn’s Lieder Ohne Worte, showing the same defects. In short, it was not a good strategy.

Masur’s predecessor, Zubin Mehta, is good at structuring repertoire dynamically but weak at details. Critics opine that his successor, Lorin V. Maazel, is so subjective in structuring that the original structures of works and the spirit of the time are often distorted. On the other hand, Masur is not subjective in interpreting works, which marks him. In the main July 2nd program, Masur did not attempt to translate the Mahler’s symphony No. 1 into Masur’s. This characteristic of him was appreciated in details. In Chapter 4, after the blasting sound of golden pipes and symbols, string instruments suddenly drew the atmosphere deep down into low tine. Through this, Masur demonstrated his excellence in keeping the balance at all times.

After Mahler’s symphony No. 1 was over, the orchestra members put on the Red Devils’ uniforms reading “Be the Reds.” Then, they played America of Leonard Bernstein as their first encore song. At the helm of this orchestra were Mahler in the 1900s, and Bernstein, the Americans’ icon of 1960s. I feel envious of the weight of tradition left by the giants.

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com