Ditto Festival puts classical at the forefront

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Ditto Festival puts classical at the forefront


From left, cellist Mun Tae-guk, pianist Han Chi-ho and Ditto Festival’s music director and violist, Richard Yongjae O’Neill.[ANSAN ARTS CENTER]

Classical music has long been considered a genre difficult for the younger generation to enjoy. However, through the annual Ditto Festival, violist and music director Richard Yongjae O’Neill, as well as many other talented young musicians, have proven the beauty and charm of classical music time and time again.

The festival’s name comes from O’Neill’s classical ensemble Ditto. The festival is centered on the ensemble, though it also introduces various up-and-coming classical musicians.

This year marks the 10th annual Ditto Festival, which is taking place in various cities around the country, including Ansan, Gyeonggi. The theme of this year’s festival is “Be the original.”

“‘Be the original’ is the sort of a prompt to say this is all about the music and the programs,” explained O’Neill.

The violist highlighted the growing popularity of classical music in Korea. “Today, I see the concert calendar in Seoul, and it’s packed,” said O’Neill.

He added, “There are so many ensembles, so many concerts and so many artists that are entrepreneurial, and I congratulate them. I say that’s a testament to [the fact that] there is a new community and a new hunger for chamber music.”

The festival in Ansan, which is being held at the Ansan Arts Center, features many prominent musicians. It kicked off on June 8 with a performance from cellist Mun Tae-guk and pianist Han Chi-ho. On June 9, Clarinetist Kim Han and pianist Kim Jae-won filled the stage with Schumann’s Fantasiestucke Op. 73, Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F minor Op. 120 No. 1 and many more pieces. The second-to-last concert in Ansan will feature O’Neill himself along with renowned pianist Lim Dong-hyek on June 15.

The two musicians will perform famous numbers by Schubert, Brahms and Beethoven.

“The music of Beethoven. I might argue [Beethoven] believed [music] was the ultimate expression of all in his quest for humanity and brotherhood and peace. I agree with him,” said O’Neill. “So our program focuses on Op. 69 Sonata, which was written in the midst of Beethoven’s most glorious and unbelievable period of masterpiece after masterpiece.”

“There are Schubert and Brahms pieces,” O’Neill continued. “Brahms Viola Sonata Op. 120 No. 2 in E Flat Major is a personal favorite of mine, and one that I had been frightened to perform in public. I feel like Brahms’ language is very similar to Beethoven.”

The last day of the Ditto festival in Ansan will close with a performance from the new season of Ensemble Ditto, which is made up of O’Neill, violinists Daniel Chong and Tseng Yu-chien, cellist Mun, clarinetist Kim and pianist Steven Lin. The ensemble hopes to bring the focus back to music with their three pieces - Contrasts by Barok, Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor Op. 67 and the Piano Quartet No. 2 in A major Op. 26 by Brahms.

BY SUNG JI-EUN [sung.jieun@joonang.co.kr]

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