City orchestra searching for new maestro after scandals

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City orchestra searching for new maestro after scandals

After artistic director and principal conductor Chung Myung-whun resigned in December after a series of scandals that shook the Korean classical music world, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has been trying to give itself a boost with a renewed objective and strategies.

However, it will take at least two to three years for the next artistic director to take the podium, Choi Heung-sik, the president of the orchestra, said at a press conference yesterday.

According to Choi, an advisory committee was formed in March to select the next artistic director. “There are three criteria for this position: global recognition, network and affection for Korea,” he said. The seven-member committee includes classical music experts, an orchestra member, an accountant, a music critic, a legal expert and a contract specialist.

However, it will be at least a year and a half before the committee announces the artistic director, and another one to two years for the director to conduct actual performances of the orchestra, considering that an artistic director needs at least 10 weeks of residence per year with the orchestra. Most high-profile conductors have their schedules planned out two to three years in advance.

The committee has created a list of about 10 candidates who were selected from total of 320 conductors. The final list of candidates will be closely examined: For example, most will be invited as guest conductors to during the orchestra’s 2016 and 2017 seasons.

“There is no Korean conductor among the 10 candidates. But we will continuously invite Korean conductors as guest conductors,” Choi said.

To make up for the long-term vacancy of its artistic director, the philharmonic will create the new position of head guest conductor. And there will be two assistant conductors, whereas in the past there was only one.

“We cannot make any official announcement of who the head guest conductor will be before everything is perfectly organized,” he said. “But I am sure we will be able to finally reveal the name before this year ends and we promise you that all processes will be transparent.”

Meanwhile, the Seoul City Council is considering changing a municipal ordinance so that the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra is operated under the management of the Sejong Center of the Performing Arts.

While there are a lot of concerns about the potential change, including that the orchestra could lose its unique artistic identity and power, Choi said that the organization is in the position to adapt to the change, although he added that he disagrees with the revision.

At the press meeting, he also mentioned the scandals that beset the previous artistic director and former orchestra head. “We regret that the scandal happened. We will do our best in the prosecution process and accept the result.”

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