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Looking ahead to Korea’s 2019 classical music season

The 2019 classical music season is a promising one, with numerous stars and prestigious orchestras set to perform in South Korea. Here’s a taste of what lies ahead. 

The London Philharmonic Orchestra (Vincero)
The London Philharmonic Orchestra (Vincero)

Star pianists play Rachmaninoff in January

Korea’s 2018 classical music scene opened with pianist Cho Seong-jin’s first-ever nationwide tour. The date on the calendar has changed, but again it is Cho who will be raising the curtain.

Cho will perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30, with the KBS Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Yoel Levi on Jan. 4 at Lotte Concert Hall. The orchestra will also perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 74, “Pathetique.”

Also performing the same Rachmaninoff piece is pianist Kim Sun-wook. On Jan. 31, Kim and the KBS Symphony Orchestra will hold a concert at the Seoul Arts Center.

Pianist Boris Giltburg is another artist who will take on Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in January. Accompanying Giltburg is the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at Lotte Concert Hall on Jan. 24 and 25.


Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s artist-in-residence for 2019, is another one of the first musicians to perform in 2019. At his debut concert in the new role, Tetzlaff will perform Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 35, accompanied by the SPO led by Markus Stenz. The same work will be performed Jan. 5 at the Seoul Arts Center and Jan. 6 at the Lotte Concert Hall.

The following day, Tetzlaff will hold a chamber music concert at Seoul Cathedral Anglican Church of Korea in central Seoul. Tetzlaff is to perform Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2 and Sonata No. 3, in addition to Dvorak’s String Quintet No. 3, with the SPO.

Tetzlaff will be traveling to a number of international destinations before returning to Korea in September for two more concerts.

Korea’s up-and-coming pianist Park Jong-hai will hold a total of five concerts during 2019 as Kumho Art Hall’s artist-in-residence.

Renowned soloists

Polish classical pianist and the winner of the 15th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in 2015, Rafal Blechacz will be visiting Korea for a duo concert with rising violinist Kim Bom-sori on Feb. 23 at the Seoul Arts Center.

Pianist Murray Perahia, originally scheduled to perform in Seoul last year before he canceled for health reasons, will perform a solo recital March 5 at the Seoul Arts Center.

Rudolf Buchbinder, a living piano legend, is performing on May 12 at the Seoul Arts Center, highlighting Beethoven sonata pieces selected by the pianist himself. The concert, his first in Seoul in six years, will be a rare opportunity to listen to the renowned Beethoven specialist’s take on the composer.

On Sept. 18 at the Seoul Arts Center, baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Cho Seong-jin are bringing the concert program they first introduced in 2018 to some of the most prestigious classical music venues in Europe, including the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris and Wigmore Hall in London. The program comprises works by Hugo Wolf, Hans Pfitzner and Richard Wagner.

Violin virtuoso Anne-Sophie Mutter is due to return Nov. 29 for a solo recital, slightly less than a year after her December 2018 concert with SPO. The upcoming performance will showcase her seamless rendition of violin sonata compositions by Beethoven in the run-up to the 250th anniversary of the birth of the composer in 2020.

A special treat is in store in the form of a gala concert by the winners of the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition. The winners in the piano, violin, cello and voice categories will perform a Tchaikovsky symphony together on Oct. 15 at the Seoul Arts Center. The winners of the competition will be announced in June.

Prestigious orchestras

On the schedule for March is the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The LPO and its principal conductor, Vladimir Jurowski, will introduce Till Eulenspiegel’s “Merry Pranks” and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. Julia Fischer, one of the world’s leading violin virtuosi, will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the orchestra.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic also comes to Korea in March. The LA Phil, led by its music and artistic director, Gustavo Dudamel, will be holding several concerts March 16-18. The LA Phil’s concerts in Seoul are part of the orchestra’s yearlong centennial celebration. On March 16, the orchestra will start its tour with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major, “Titan.” Pianist Yuja Wang will be collaborating with the orchestra on John Adams’ newest piano concerto piece, “Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes?”

On March 17, Dudamel and the LA Phil will present a special concert highlighting compositions by John Williams at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena in Seoul. On the last day, March 18, Wang and the LA Phil are scheduled to hold a chamber music concert at the Lotte Concert Hall.

On June 25 at the Seoul Arts Center, the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer -- the founder and music director of the orchestra -- will take to the stage performing its highly refined repertoire, including Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 and Mendelssohn’s Overture and Incidental Music to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Pianist Cho Seong-jin will join the orchestra in performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform Nov. 10 at the Seoul Arts Center, with Cho Seong-jin joining the orchestra.

Conductor Chung Myung-whun and the Staatskapelle Dresden’s concert, which runs Sept. 29 at the Seoul Arts Center, is another noteworthy concert on the roster for 2019. Pianist Kim Sun-wook will join Chung and the orchestra.

Also in September, the SPO will invite conductor Manfred Honeck, the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, for performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61, with Tetzlaff. The SPO concerts will take place Sept. 5 at the Seoul Arts Center and Sept. 6 at the Lotte Concert Hall.

The SPO’s collaboration with pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet on April 24 and 25 at the Seoul Arts Center is another promising concert.

Stars returning home

Violinist Sarah Chang will hold a nationwide tour, her first in seven years. Starting Dec. 29 at the Seoul Arts Center, Chang will hold five or six concerts in Korea. Details, including the other concert venues and dates, are still under discussion with the artist, according to organizer Credia.

Cellist and conductor Chang Han-na will be visiting Korea with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, where Chang has held the chief conductor post since 2017. On Nov. 13 and 14, Chang and the orchestra will perform Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. Pianist Lim Dong-hyek will join the orchestra in a performance of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

By Shim Woo-hyun (