The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Rising star conductor Klaus Makela to meet Korean audiences

By Park Ga-young

Published : Oct. 18, 2023 - 17:52

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Klaus Makela (Vincero) Klaus Makela (Vincero)

Klaus Makela, a fast-rising Finnish conductor and cellist, will finally meet the Korean audiences after two pandemic-induced cancellations.

"I was truly sad and felt sorry. However, because of the sadness I had felt through the pandemic, the expectation for the upcoming performance in Korea doubled," Makela said in an email interview this week.

At 27, Makela is chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, which last performed in Korea 27 years ago.

The orchestra will perform on Oct. 28 at Goyang Aram Nuri Arts Center in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, and Oct. 30 at Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul. With violinist Janine Jansen, the orchestra will present an all-Sibelius program -- Violin Concerto, Op. 47 for both concerts and Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 for Goyang and Symphony No. 5, Op. 82 for the Seoul performances.

Sibelius' music has been performed many a time in Korea in recent years with conductors hailing from Finland leading the two major Korean orchestras -- Pietari Inkine who serves as the music director of the KBS Symphony Orchestra and Osmo Vanska, who led the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra for three years until 2022.

“When it comes to Oslo Philharmonic, what I always talk about is ‘Strong Orchestra.’ They have truly deep and strong sounds. Also, the detailed approach that Maestro Maris Jansons had built up over 20 years leading the orchestra remains in them. Oslo Philharmonic has their own unique sound that is very rich and deep,” Makela wrote.

Makela, born in Helsinki to a family of musicians, is also a cellist like his father. He studied cello at Sibelius Academy where he met Jorma Panula, a renowned Finnish conductor who had a profound influence on several prominent conductors, including Vanska.

"We’re lucky to have Jorma Panula in Finland. He truly is one of the reasons Finland has become so powerful in music history," he said.

Makela said the most unique and wonderful part of his class was the opportunity to conduct the orchestra every week, regardless of size. Although not a full orchestra, by standing in front of people and conducting in person, Makela said he learned how to move his body as a conductor, and became more comfortable psychologically, too.

“Panula never taught us directly to ‘conduct like this or that.’ Instead, he focused on what we should find in music and how we should approach the music to implement it. After conducting every week, he gave us comments and his students reviewed each other as well. All these memories remain helpful,” he said.

With a flourishing career as both a conductor and a cellist, Makela has risen to prominence as one of the most sought-after conductors. He also serves as the music director of the Orchestre de Paris, and artistic partner and chief conductor-designate of the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, where he will assume the chief conductor post in 2027.

Balancing multiple demanding roles probably leaves him with limited spare time, but when he does, he immerses himself in art.

"I go to eat delicious food with my friends and colleagues when I have time away from music. But the biggest part of my spare time is the art museums. When I look at the music after visiting amazing artworks, I see something else," Makela said.