Experiencing the future of classical
Beautiful landscapes alone cannot explain the city, however: It is also the birthplace of a number of artists who represent Korean arts - from literature to music.
For one, it is the hometown of the composer Yun Isang (1917-95). He is famous for his great musical pieces such as “Musik fur sieben Instrumente” (1959) and his efforts to make society a better place.
In order to honor the composer, the Tongyeong International Music Festival (TIMF) is held annually by the TIMF Foundation in his hometown. Established in 2002, the festival aims to provide world-class young artists from Asia the chance to share their musical talents.
Florian Riem, the chief executive officer of TIMF, said, “The motto is very fitting to Tongyeong, which was newly designated as a Unesco Creative City of Music.”
This year’s festival is more plentiful both in its quantity and quality, as TIMF will be held together with World Music Days from March 28 to April 1, which is hosted by International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and the TIMF Foundation.
The ISCM conducts a competition of young artists of contemporary music, called World Music Days, and selects a single composer of age 35 or under for the Young Composer Award.
Paik Seung-woo, president of ISCM Korea and also the professor of composition at Gachon University, said, “It is very meaningful to host World Music Days with TIMF in the hometown of composer Yun Isang.” According to him, Yun was a member of ISCM Korea for a long time and became an honorary member after he passed away.
What’s more, one can expect more renowned artists with distinctive musical careers to visit TIMF. The festival will open with the performance “Good Friday Spell” by violinist Vilde Frang and the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra on March 25.
On March 25 and 26, Philip Glass will conduct his opera “La Belle et la Bete,” or “Beauty and the Beast.” Glass is a maestro of contemporary music, famous for his minimalist style in music. The performance will feature Jean Cocteau’s original movie, “Beauty and the Beast,” on stage along with the music composed by Glass.
The next day, audience will be able to see Glass at “An Evening with Philip Glass,” at which Riem will have a conversation with the composer. Riem said that he is studying about various topics - including music, history and many others - to prepare for what he hopes will be an enlightening interview with Glass. Glass will also play his solo piano piece for the audience.
On March 26, the Bach Collegium Japan, an ensemble of performers with original instruments and choir, will perform Bach’s St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 with conductor Masaaki Suzuki, who is well-known for his outstanding understanding of earlier classics.
The Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa will hold a performance on March 27. Among its performances, Sollima’s “Violoncelles, Vibrez!” is worth paying attention to because of its minimalist style, according to Kim So-hyeon, an organizer of TIMF.
On March 28, there will be “Asian Composers Showcase” and the audience will be able to enjoy world premieres of the young yet talented composers. Cuarteto Casals, a classical quartet from Spain, will perform on the same day.
Korean pianist Paik Kun-woo, soloist Marisol Montalvo, Ensemble 2e2m, jazz vocalist Stacy Kent and other renowned artists will visit TIMF as well. There are other unique performances - for example, from Jeong Ga Ak Hoe which mixes the sound both from Korea and Brazil; and a musical installation by Robert Cahen to honor the works of Pierre Boulez, a famed French conductor and composer who passed away last month.
For the closing ceremony, Christoph Eschenbach will conduct a performance with the Tongyeong Festival Orchestra. He is the music director of the U.S. National Symphony Orchestra and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He will conduct the Asian premiere of “Once Upon a Time” and “Le Silence des Sirenes,” composed respectively by Bruno Mantovani and Unsuk Chin, a Korean composer known for her bold experiments with contemporary music.
For more information, visit timf.org.
BY KIM HYE-JUN