This year’s Seoul International Music Festival, one of the major annual classical music festivals held every autumn in Korea, has begun its 11th installment.
This year’s Seoul International Music Festival (SIMF), one of the major annual classical music festivals held every autumn in Korea, has begun its 11th installment.
Under the theme of “Humans and Environment,” the autumn festival provides 11 a variety of love music events, ranging from orchestra concerts and recitals to chamber music concerts, until Nov. 8.
“Every concert’s title is related to the theme of the festival, such as Fallen Leaves, and On the Threshold of Winter, aiming to evoke consciousness about pervasive environmental issues and crises,” the festival’s artistic director Ryu Jea-joon said during a press conference held at Pung Wol Dang in southern Seoul, Thursday.
“Environment is a huge concept; the reason we put humans in the theme as Humans and Environment is because we actually need to protect humans more than the Earth itself. Compared to the Earth’s origin that dates back some 4.5 billion years, the history of humans is just incomparably short. We need to put efforts to conserve the environment for ourselves and for the next generation,” the artistic director of the festival said.
Besides the focus and inspiration from the nature, the SIMF commemorates special 30-year anniversaries of establishing diplomatic ties with both Hungary and Poland.
The Gyor Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the most respected Hungarian classical musical ensembles, kicked off the 17-day festival last week with their special performance titled “A Candle by the Danube.”
The concert not only celebrated the 30-year relationship between South Korea and Hungary, but also paid tribute to the more than two dozen Korean victims, mostly tourists, in a tragic accident that took place in Budapest in May.
The concert performed some of the most iconic pieces by Hungarian composers, Liszt and Bartok.
Another anniversary concert was held on Oct. 26. The special concert commemorated the 30 years of diplomatic relations between Seoul and Warsaw, under the title of “Questioning the Way of Man.”
Legendary Polish contemporary classical music composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s “St. Luke Passion,” one of the composer’s most well-known masterpieces premiered in Germany’s Munster Cathedral in 1966 that garnered the honor of the Nordrhein-westfalen Grand Prize that year.
“Through his music, Penderecki throws a powerful question, ‘what do humans live for?’” Ryu wrote in the program book. Ryu himself is also a pupil of the Polish composer, studying composition at the Krakow Music Academy in Poland.
“St. Luke Passion is a piece that transcends religion and is a question for all humanity. It is a story about a man who took on the sufferings for the ones who hated him, and it is also a reflection of the composer who lived through the turbulence of World War II and the era of the Iron Curtain.”
Penderecki was originally supposed to lead the concert in Seoul, yet according to the secretariat of the SIMF, the 85-year-old composer could not make it due to his health.
More than seven concerts remain until the end of the festival.
On the evening of Oct. 29, “SIMF Sinfonietta Cracovia,” where Penderecki’s “Sinfonietta No. 3 Leaves from an Unwritten Diary” will be premiered in Korea. Mozart’s beloved “Symphony No. 40,” “Horn Concerto No.3” as well as Haydn’s “Symphony 43, Mercury” will also be performed under the baton of conductor Jurek Dybal.
Chamber music concerts “Rendezvous and Farewell” on Oct. 31, “A Surfing Beach’ on Nov. 1, and “Ballad of Spring” on Nov. 2 invite many of the most sought-after talented musicians of the current generation both in and outside of Korea, presenting various works by Karl Weigl, Brahms, Strauss, Britten, and more.
Arto Noras and Ralf Gothoni’s duo recital titled “Fallen Leaves” on Nov. 6 is also one of the highlights of the festival; audiences can listen to harmonious and mature music created by two maestros who have spent more than five decades in music.
The festival ends on Nov. 8 with “On a Sunny Day.”
The closing concert invites famous performers who studied at the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music in the U.S., including flutist Jasmine Choi, violist Roberto Diaz, cellist Christine Lee and violinist Dami Kim.
Pieces ranging from the classical and romantic period of Mozart and Brahms to modern pieces by Villa-Lobos and Schoenfield will be presented to the audience, encompassing both the past and the present of classical music.
Meanwhile, a special CD titled “Mobius” was internationally released last Friday through the Warner Classics label, containing three pieces, Penderecki’s “Symphony No. 5,” Ryu’s “Piano Concerto” and Lee Geon-yong’s “Gyol.”
The special concert on Oct. 26 commemorates the 30-year anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Poland. The concert presents legendary Polish composer Penderecki’s “St. Luke Passion,” which was premiered in Germany’s Munster Cathedral in 1966.
Artistic director Ryu Jea-joon