Exclusive: Korean orchestra to play at the Vatican

Exclusive: Korean orchestra to play at the Vatican


norman lebrecht

October 26, 2011

You can’t keep these Seoul bands out of the news.

First, the excellent Seoul Philharmonic won a 10-CD deal with Deutsche Grammophon and made a triumphant European summer tour with music director Myung Whun Chung.

Then the less celebrated KBS Symphony Orchestra took a leaf from Russia’s Svetlanov ensemble by rising up against their music director, Hahm Shinik, in a show of anti-maestro t-shirts at rehearsal.

Barely had these excitements settled down than I received word from Jehi Bahk, former concertmaster of the Seoul Philharmonic,

that his Philharmonia Corea has been chosen to play in the “Festival Internazionale di Musica e Arte Sacra” in November 2012. They will be the first Korean orchestra (and only the second from Asia) to play at the Vatican, perhaps before the Pope himself.

Jehi’s orchestra is unusual in that it is the first musicians’ cooperative in Korea. He tell me: ‘ I’m convinced that an orchestra can only be truly a great orchestra if its musicians can make music in an environment of artistic freedom. To create such an environment … I’m trying to build up an orchestra which is self governed (by its members) – for the first time in South Korea.’

All this, without either political or massive corporate funding. Watch that band.