A first-class reinauguration for new SejongThat the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa, is performing in Seoul is cause for celebration, but the two concerts tomorrow and Sunday at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts have deeper meaning.
After renovations costing $27 million, the Sejong Center is making a bid to reclaim its place at the epicenter of Seoul’s cultural scene. The Vienna Philharmonic will be the first concert with an audience in the new hall.
A musically ravishing performance by the orchestra is expected. What’s really being tested are the hall’s new accoustics. While tomorrow’s concert is not the “official” reopening of Sejong Center (that’s on March 2, featuring a variety of musicians), it will be the performance that could mark the beginning of a new era. Rather dryly, Kim A-ram, with the center’s public relations department, says, “How shall I put this. The performance is very important to us.”
When the center first opened in 1978, it was the best place in Seoul to hear classical music. But with the opening of new cultural centers, like the LG Art Center and the Seoul Arts Center, and with advances in sound architecture, Sejong was slowly pushed into the shadows.
In January of 2003, the center closed its main hall for the first time in 25 years for the renovation. They brought in the architectural firm Dongbu Corporation and gathered an international staff of architects, sound engineers and lighting experts. They were also lucky enough to get the Vienna Philharmonic for the reopening, with Ozawa as conductor.
Ozawa, born in Japan to Chinese parents, has been recognized for many achievements. He’s been named a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by French President Jacques Chirac and the 1997 “Musician of the Year” by Musical America. He was the first recipient of Japan’s Inouye Award for his lifetime of achievement in the arts. And it has been a decade since the opening of the Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, the Bostom Symphony Orchestra’s summer home in western Massachusetts.
In March 1979, he and the Boston Symphony Orchestra made a historic visit to China, becoming the first American performing ensemble to visit China since the establishment of diplomatic relations. He stepped down from his position as music director at the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2001-2002 season to become the music director of the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.
Since the birth of the Vienna Philharmonic, it has accepted only musicians from the Vienna State Opera Orchestra. The Vienna Philharmonic has always considered itself a partnership; decisions are reached on a democratic basis in general meetings of all members.
Tomorrow’s concert will feature Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2. The orchestra will be presenting Strauss’s “Don Juan,” Brahms’s Symphony No. 1 and Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody, Op. 11, No. 1, on Sunday.
The orchestra’s world tour kicked off on Feb. 18 at Carnegie Hall in New York. The orchestra lands in Korea after performances in Beijing and Shanghai.
by Joe Yong-hee
Tickets are 30,000 won ($26) to 350,000 won. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday. For more information, visit the Web site www.sejongpac.or.kr.