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After 21 Years, Berlin Philharmonic Returns to Korea

Posted October. 26, 2005 07:33,   


The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), which performed under conductor Herbert von Karajan in Korea back in 1984 at the invitation of Dong-A Ilbo, will return to Korea again for the first time in 21 years.

This time, new maestro Sir Simon Rattle from the U.K. will be the conductor of the BPO’s 136 performing members.

The concert will be held from November 7 to 8 in the concert hall of the Seoul Arts Center.

A Younger Sound for the World’s Best Ensemble-

“Compared to what it was 21 years ago, the BPO has become notably younger. Also, the management of the orchestra has been greatly democratized. But above all, the change in the BPO’s sound has been greatest. Its sonority is much more transparent now,” said Helmut Mebert of First Violin.

Mebert, a member of the five-member committee which serves as an advisor for BPO executives, made the comment as an explanation for Korean fans who remember the tone of the BPO of 21 years ago.

The 123-year-old orchestra was founded as one with solemn and splendid colors and powerful sound through numerous recordings and concerts under maestros Wilhelm Furtwangler (1922-1954) and Herbert von Karajan (1955-1989). After Karajan died, Germany was reunified. Under the conductor Claudio Abbado (1989-2002), more than half of the BPO members changed.

In particular, genius 20-something woodwind players who joined the orchestra in the 1990s, such as Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Albrecht Mayer (oboe), and Wenzel Fuchs (clarinet), took the lead in a generational shift toward for the orchestra to a more refined and sophisticated sound. The average age of members is 38 in the BPO, which boasts of having a perfect ensemble.

The Varied Repertory Simon Rattle-

Britain’s Simon Rattle was elected the BPO’s new standing conductor for the 21st century in a vote by members in September 2002.

He became the conductor of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1980 at age 25. There, he transformed the orchestra a world-class orchestra and produced more than 60 records while winning numerous world-class record awards.

He is currently leading the revitalization of the BPO by developing new repertories, making records, and launching education projects.

In its tour of six cities in Korea, China, Japan and Taiwan, including Seoul and Beijing, the BPO will perform various repertory pieces with a “hero” theme. Its program is a combination of classical and modern music. It will perform Beethoven “Symphony No.3 Eroica,” Richard Strauss’ “A Hero`s Life,” Maurice Ravel’s “Ma Mère l`Oye (Mother Goose),” and Haydn’s “Symphony in D major, Hob. I : 86.”

In particular, Rattle has requested listeners pay particular attention to Thomas Ades’ “Asyla,” as it will be the BPO’s first performance of this piece in Korea. Ades is a British modern musician.

“Simon Rattle has the power to induce splendid colors, spectacular scale, and dynamic strength and weakness from a large-scale symphony, rivaling Karajan,” said Yoo Jung-woo, a music columnist.

The World’s Best Soloists-

Since its foundation in 1882, the BPO has maintained the tradition of electing regular members through a vote of confidence of new chief members and rank-and-file members after one-or two-year internship period. All decisions, including the selection of the conductor and recording company, are done through votes by members. External intervention is thoroughly prevented. This is the secret of the orchestra’s absolute pitch, which does not change although its members change.

Every single member of the BPO is a world-class soloist. Some members, such as Emmanuel Pahud (flute) and Albrecht Mayer (oboe), spend about a half the year performing recitals across the world. And also performing under the orchestra are more than 30 Berlin chamber music groups made up of former and existing BPO members.

For more information, visit www.bpo2005.com or call 02-6303-1919.

Seung-Hoon Cheon raphy@donga.com