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Jaap van Zweden, New York Phil Maestro, Takes Podium in Seoul

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In New York, Jaap van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic’s music director, is getting ready to say goodbye: Farewell concert events below the banner “Celebrate Jaap!” are deliberate over the following few months earlier than his temporary, pandemic-interrupted tenure ends this summer time.

However in Seoul, the place van Zweden formally started a five-year time period because the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director this month, a brand new chapter is taking form. Final week he led sold-out performances of Beethoven and Mahler with the ensemble, his first concert events as music director.

“We had this sense of attempting to go to the following stage,” van Zweden stated in an interview from Seoul.

Van Zweden was greeted as a star, his face plastered on commercials that declared the beginning of a brand new period. Followers snapped pictures in entrance of his portrait within the foyer of the Seoul Arts Heart. His inaugural concert events drew high-profile figures in tradition and politics, together with the mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, who appointed van Zweden, and the previous South Korean president Lee Myung-bak.

It helped that van Zweden was showing with the younger pianist Yunchan Lim, a sensation in his native South Korea. Lim, who has been described as classical music’s reply to Ok-pop, joined van Zweden and the orchestra for Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. Then van Zweden led a efficiency of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, incomes an prolonged ovation.

It was a contemporary begin for van Zweden, 63, a Dutch conductor with a repute as a hard-charging maestro, who arrived in New York in 2018. His time on the New York Philharmonic was interrupted by the pandemic, which strained his relationship with the orchestra.

In 2021, he made the shock announcement that he would depart New York, saying the pandemic had made him rethink his life and priorities. His six-year tenure would be the shortest of any Philharmonic music director since Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor who led the orchestra for six seasons within the Seventies. Van Zweden has been praised for serving to to usher the orchestra into the rebuilt David Geffen Corridor, however he acquired combined opinions as a conductor, dealing with questions on whether or not he had the star energy wanted for the job.

Whereas the Seoul Philharmonic is amongst Asia’s most outstanding ensembles, it has struggled in recent times with monetary issues and administration woes. Van Zweden’s predecessor, the Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, stepped down in 2022 after three years.

Van Zweden stated he was drawn to the Seoul Philharmonic due to the chance to rebuild the orchestra. He confronted an identical problem, he stated, on the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the place he has been music director for 12 years. (He steps down this season.)

He was additionally drawn to the cultural choices in Seoul, he stated.

“You’ll be able to see that this complete artwork scene in South Korea is exploding, and it’s great to be a part of that,” he stated.

Son Eun-kyung, the chief government of the Seoul Philharmonic, wrote in an electronic mail that van Zweden would assist the orchestra attain its full potential.

“I can positively really feel that the sound of the orchestra is unquestionably bettering,” she stated. “That is the mixed results of the fervour and enthusiasm of the music director and orchestra members.”

In Seoul, viewers members had been typically constructive concerning the begin of van Zweden’s tenure.

Kim Younger-shin, who often attends concert events by the orchestra, stated the musicians appeared to be responding to van Zweden, although she stated they would want extra time to achieve “excellent concord with each other.”

Bae Jin-woo, 24, was impressed by van Zweden’s rendition of a Tchaikovsky symphony final 12 months. He stated he had initially fearful that van Zweden would battle to regulate to Korean tradition, however “tonight’s live performance was so nice that I don’t suppose I would like to fret about such issues.”

Van Zweden stated his post-New York Philharmonic profession would come with his commitments in Seoul in addition to a music directorship at a European ensemble. He declined to supply particulars however stated the appointment can be introduced quickly.

He stated he was wanting to take the Seoul Philharmonic on tour to the US, Europe and different components of Asia. He additionally wish to document all of Mahler’s symphonies with the orchestra and wish to carry out extra music by Korean composers.

Van Zweden, who carried out 5 packages with the Seoul Philharmonic final 12 months, stated he had lengthy felt a connection to South Korea. An early trainer, the violinist Hyo Kang, is from Seoul; Kang has lately attended just a few of his former pupil’s concert events.

Van Zweden can be impressed by the work ethic of the orchestra’s musicians.

“It’s a really open orchestra — the ego will not be so massive that you just run into problematic conditions,” he stated. “They’re prepared to have a beautiful journey collectively.”