Orchestra evokes passions, memories

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Orchestra evokes passions, memories

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, long-loved by Korean classical music fans, will perform Monday and Tuesday at the Seoul Arts Center.
When the orchestra first visited Korea in 1984, it left a strong impression with its performance conducted by Herbert Von Karajan, who was a long-awaited guest.
Despite numerous invitations, Mr. Karajan had refused to perform in Korea for many years, saying he could not play in a country where a dictator oppresses human rights. He was referring to the East Berlin Spy incident in which Isang Yun, a Korean-born German musician, was kidnapped by the South Korean government in 1967 on suspicion of spying for North Korea.
After the orchestra’s performance in Seoul, Karajan’s popularity skyrocketed. He was even featured in a TV commercial for stereo systems. Many Koreans still remember his furrowed eyebrows as beautiful and charismatic. Karajan died five years after his performance in Korea, but he is probably the most well-remembered conductor among middle-aged Koreans.
Despite his popularity, Korean fans were unable to see his orchestra again until this week’s scheduled show.
These days, Sir Simon Rattle of Britain is conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.
The orchestra’s performance in Korea this time is a part of its first Asian tour since Rattle became the new conductor in September 2002. The tour covers Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo from today to Nov. 21.
The orchestra was established over 100 years ago on a smaller scale. Originally just a small band called “Bilsesche Kapelle,” it was established in 1862 by Benjamin Bilje. In 1887, a promoter took over the band and renamed it the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, using a remodeled roller-skating rink as the performing hall.
Since then, the orchestra has had many conductors including Wilhelm Furtwangler, Sergiu Celibidache, Herbert Von Karajan and Claudio Abbado as it grew to become one of the most famous orchestras in the world.
The current conductor, Sir Simon, was born in Liverpool in 1955 and began his career as an assistant conductor with the Bournemouth Symphony. He led the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1980 and began to gain renown.
When he was selected as the director and conductor of the German orchestra, his nationality (British) and age (47 at the time) became a hot issue.
On Monday, the orchestra will play Berlioz, Ravel and Beethoven. On Tuesday, it will play Haydn and Strauss.
Ticket prices range from 90,000 won ($90) to 450,000 won. For more information call (02) 6303-1919 or visit www.bpo2005.com. For tickets, call Ticketlink at 1588-7890.

by Choi Sun-young
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