Korean Conductor Spans Cultural Divide With Classical Music and a Global Vision

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Korean Conductor Spans Cultural Divide With Classical Music and a Global Vision

One of the most prominent figures in classical music in Korea is the conductor Nanse Gum. There is a saying among Koreans-"Where is Nanse Gum, there is the music of life"-that gives some indication of the esteem he garners among his fellow countrymen.

Nanse Gum conducted the Euro-Asian Philharmonic Orchestra at Sejong Center for the Performing Arts last Thursday, in concert with the Asia-Europe Meeting of heads of state. The conductor's prodigious talent and dynamic presence at the conclusion of the summit was a welcome departure from the diplomatic rhetoric of ASEM.

The packed concert hall buzzed with anticipation for a perfornamce that included a Beethoven's Triple Concerto and Dvorak's Symphony No.9. At the finale, the 3,000-strong crowd rose and, in a deafening wave of applause, demanded an encore. The conductor obliged, and the crowd was rewarded with three more works.

"He was just like a Mudang(a Korean male shaman), mesmerized by the spirit of heavenly music. He moved his hands and body so fast, I thought he was flying." said Shim Myung-hee, a casting director who attended the concert. "It was so awe-inspiring that I could hardly breathe."

"Music is a part of my daily life." said the maestro. "The concert may be finished, but it's not over yet. I need to recharge myself emotionally by telling myself I did a good job, even though my clothes are soaked woth sweat and my body exhausted from the effort."

After graduating from Seoul National University with a major in composition in 1974, Mr.Gum went to Berlin to study conducting under the direction of Professor Hans-Martin Rabenstein at the Hochschule der Kunste Berlin.

Mr.Gum stared conducting at the age of 27 after winning third prize at the Karajan International Young Conductor's Competition, held in 1977 in Berlin, Germany. He received international acclaim as a musician and conductor while performing with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Beside conducting, Mr.Gum has since 1980 been music director for numerous international orchestras such as the European Master Orchestra, the Leningrad Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the KBS Symphony Orchestra and most recently with the Euro-Asian Philharmonic Orchestra, which he founded in 1997 to introduce Korea's classical musicians to audiences in Europe.

"I think the ASEM Festival Orchestra concert symbolized the idea of harmony and cooperation between Asia and Europe," Mr.Gum said. "And it is my dream for the Euro-Asian Philharmonic Orchestra to become a bridge between these two continents which are culturally so diverse."

by Kim Jae-seon

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