Spring arrives in Tongyeong with classical music

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : Mar 31, 2019 - 18:53
  • Updated : Mar 31, 2019 - 18:53

TONGYEONG, South Gyeongsang Province -- With cherry blossoms in full bloom, the Tongyeong International Music Festival 2019 began Friday.

The annual 10-day festival, founded in 2002, takes place at the city of Tongyeong, a southern coastal city and UNESCO City of Music.

This year’s edition pays respect to two historical figures of music. One is, as is typically the case, late composer Yun I-sang, as the festival has its roots in a music festival dedicated to Yun. Tongyeong was the famed composer’s hometown and is where the composer’s remains were returned from Germany last year.

Another is Beethoven. While 2020 marks 250 years since the birth of Beethoven, the organizers decided to celebrate the occasion a year earlier under the theme “Destiny.”

The Lucerne Symphony Orchestra raised the curtain on the festival, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 under the baton of Michael Sanderling.

The well-known piece stirred up audience members, but they were left baffled by Heinz Holliger’s “Ostinato Funebre” that followed.

The unconventional composition, written by Yun’s longtime friend, includes the sound of a piece of paper being ripped, dry leaves in a box and howling wind. It may have proved too strange and unfamiliar for many concertgoers, with some mumbling and whispering throughout the performance.

The orchestra wrapped up the night with Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, featuring pianist Behzod Abduraimov. 

Pianist Behzod Abduraimov plays Sergei Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, with the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra on Friday. (Tongyeong International Music Foundation)

“We try to be innovative while appreciating the tradition,” said Kim So-hyun, associate director of planning from the Tongyeong International Music Foundation, explaining the program for the opening night.

“We are the only festival in the entire world that presents so many pieces written by composer Yun.”

On Saturday the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra presented Yun’s “Angel in Flames, Memento With Epilogue.” The piece embodies Yun’s sorrow for activists who set themselves on fire in the fight for democracy. He portrayed them as angels in the piece. 

The Lucerne Symphony Orchestra performs Yun I-sang’s “Angel in Flames, Memento With Epilogue,” featuring the Ansan City Choir and Wonju Civic Chorale, Saturday. (Tongyeong International Music Foundation)

The performance of the Ansan City Choir and Wonju Civic Chorale was well-received, touching listeners overall, beyond delivering the music itself.

Another performance Saturday, led by the Zagreb Soloists, included Yun’s “Colloides Sonores.” The experimental piece that demonstrates the composer’s adventurousness did not enthrall the audience like other more conventional classical music pieces in the program, but was chosen to give a sense of Yun’s musicality.

On Sunday, the homage to the late composer continued, with soloists from the Lucerne Symphony presenting Yun’s Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello.

More performances related to the Korean composer are to follow, including Duo for Cello and Harp, String Quartet No. 6, Symphony No. 3, “Fluktuationen” and “Teile Dich Nacht.”

“Around 30 percent of the audience are locals, meaning Tongyeong citizens and visitors from South Gyeongsang Province, and 70 percent are from Seoul and elsewhere,” Kim said.

On Wednesday, cellist Lim Hee-young will hold a recital presenting Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3 in A Major, Debussy’s Cello Sonata in D Minor and more. Soprano Suh Ye-ree and pianist Holger Groschopp will pay homage to Yun by presenting his early songs Thursday.

The Tongyeong Festival Orchestra will conclude the festival with a performance of Beethoven’s Leonora Overture No. 3 in C Major and Act 1 from Wagner’s “The Valkyrie.”

“In Seoul, after attending a concert, we go home and the impact stops there. But attending musical events at another place really brings unexpected emotions. And Tongyeong is such a beautiful city at this time of the year,” said Kim of TIMF.

For more information, visit the festival’s website at www.timf.org.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)