Myung-Whun Chung Thread

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Myung-Whun Chung Thread

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Image ... death.html
Myung-Whun Chung, interview: when music is life or death

Conductor Myung-Whun Chung doesn't know if the North Korean musicians he worked with are alive or dead. He talks to Adam Sweeting

By Adam Sweeting5:00PM BST 05 Jul 2014

Should playing classical music be a matter of life and death? Horrifying reports last year claimed that North Korea’s unpredictable ruler Kim Jong-un had ordered the executions by machine-gun fire of a dozen North Korean musicians from the Unhasu Orchestra, for breaking the country’s pornography laws. However, the country is so secretive and isolated that it has been impossible to confirm that the killings really took place, and one of the supposed victims, singer Hyon Song-Wol, subsequently appeared on state television, evidently in good health.

All this was especially worrying for South Korea-born conductor Myung-Whun Chung, who in 2012 had invited members of the Unhasu Orchestra to Paris to rehearse and perform with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, of which he’s music director. The collaboration, Chung hoped, could be a first step towards a broader reconciliation between North and South Korea.

“We were very shocked to hear these reports,” says Chung, “but then we also heard some other things, and it’s impossible to verify any of it. I cannot add anything to what you have already read. When you see the situation you understand why, because no one in North Korea is allowed to speak. This has gone on for 60 years, it’s really amazing.”

Even before these disturbing events, or rumours of events, Chung had decided that his professional career will now take second place to his vision of reuniting his divided homeland. At 61, he’s still a mere stripling compared with such titans of the podium as Sir Georg Solti or Sir Colin Davis, who stayed roped to the helm until their mid-eighties, but, as he puts it, “I came to realise I do have a dream and it’s shared by every Korean, which is to see Korea come together before my life is over. If the price was to forego everything else in my career, I would say without a millisecond’s hesitation ‘Please let me do it!’”

Chung began his musical career as a pianist, often performing in the Chung Trio with his sisters Kyung-Wha Chung (violin) and Myung-Wha Chung (cello). His first move into conducting was his 1979 appointment as assistant to Carlo Maria Giulini at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has subsequently conducted most of the world’s greatest orchestras.

“I’ve always felt that after 60 years of age one’s priority must be completely and forever changed,” he explains. “I don’t consider myself so much a professional musician any more. Now my decisions are based almost entirely on personal feelings, and top of the list is what can I do to help the next generation?”

Chung has been winding down his guest-conducting activities with La Scala, Milan and the Dresden Staatskapelle, and plans just one more year with the Radio France orchestra, having begun working with them in 2000. Since 2006 he has been music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, and his ambition now is to see the day when he can conduct the One Korea Orchestra, made up of musicians from both sides of the 38th parallel. He’s convinced that classical music, with its unique history and ability to transcend national boundaries, can be a persuasive force for change, but he’s under no illusions about the scale of the task.

“There are great similarities with bringing down the Berlin Wall,” he reflects, “but the big difference is that there was communication between both sides. I used to do tours in East Germany, but North Korea is walled off absolutely.”

He made a start on his great mission in 2011, when he visited the North Korean capital Pyongyang (the only North Koreans he’d ever previously met were four singers on a six-month study programme in Paris, who attended one of his rehearsals). Thanks to his long-standing connections in Paris – he was music director of the Opera Paris-Bastille in the early Nineties – he’d established a friendship with former culture minister Jack Lang. Chung was intrigued to hear that France was opening a cultural centre in North Korea and contacted Lang, who put him in touch with North Korea’s Unesco ambassador in Paris.

“This ambassador told me, ‘We will welcome you to North Korea with open arms, any time.’ I explained that I’d like that, but that’s not enough for me because of the responsibility I have in Korea. I said my visit had to have some meaning and it must lead to some sort of collaboration, and that’s how it started.”

The upshot was that Chung went to Pyongyang to rehearse with two ensembles, the Pyongyang National Symphony Orchestra and the Unhasu Orchestra. One of the pieces he played with them was Beethoven’s Ninth symphony (which Chung will also conduct at St Paul’s Cathedral with the LSO on July 15, as part of the City of London Festival).
“I said to them, ‘The reason why this music is so powerful is because through his music, Beethoven was a fighter for liberty all his life.’ If anybody else had said that they’d probably have been put in prison immediately, but in this musical context it was somehow allowed.

“After the rehearsal one of the musicians came to me and said, ‘We will never forget this day because this was our first chance ever to play this symphony.’ ”

Politely declining an official offer to take a North Korean orchestra on tour, Chung instead persuaded the authorities to let the Unhasu Orchestra come and work with his orchestra in Paris. “I chose to continue with the Unhasu Orchestra mainly because they were younger, and we spent nearly a week together in Paris. You can imagine that it was quite an emotional gathering.”

The visit culminated in a concert at the Salle Pleyel, where the combined musical forces performed Brahms’s First Symphony and a couple of traditional Korean compositions. Chung found the North Korean players to have a high degree of technical proficiency, but “they need exposure to more open musical views”.

Hopes were high as the visitors departed. “I suggested a number of other future projects and the musicians promised they would do everything in their power to make them happen. But as so often happens in North Korea, with no explanation the doors were shut even more firmly.” That’s when the news of the executions came.

Is he optimistic about the future?

“I have never met one single Korean who doesn’t wish that we could be reconciled. There’s no question that it will happen, we just don’t know how or when.”

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Re: Myung-Whun Chung Telegraph Article

Post by pianoman »

Chung has found himself in quite an imbroglio involving the ex-CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic, Hyun-jung Park. It appears that sometime in 2014, 17 SPO employees testified in a petition that CEO Park had been verbally and sexually abusing them and accused her of unethical conduct. Park eventually resigned, but not after accusing Chung of being behind the petition and accusing him of embezzlement: ... 85829.html
Will maestro Chung Myung-whun leave Seoul Philharmonic?

By Kwon Ji-youn

On Friday evening at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's (SPO) Beethoven concert at Seoul Arts Center, a slideshow filled with images reflecting maestro Chung Myung-whun's ten years with the SPO was screened following its performance of Beethoven's "Seventh Symphony." It was a surprise the members had prepared in response to the reports that Chung had decided not to renew his contract as music director of the nation's top orchestra.

In an interview with the local newspaper Chosun Ilbo published Friday, Chung expressed his intent to step down as music director of the orchestra based in Seoul when his current contract expires at the end of the year. He did not specify a reason in the short interview, but added he will conduct the concerts already scheduled for 2016.

"The money I will receive from the orchestra will go towards the SPO's development, UNICEF and other charities," he said.

The announcement comes amid police investigation into suspicions that Chung embezzled more than 50 million won ($45,000) while he was employed as the music director of the SPO for the past decade.

The investigation is based on a petition filed by conservative activists last month, which claims that he diverted 54 million won of taxpayers' money for personal use.

The maestro has said in earlier interviews that he is sick of hearing people say he has been embezzling tax money and stressed that he has been making money for the orchestra.

Chung also said earlier this year that he will only renew his contract with the SPO if the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) promises to build a music hall for the SPO, as well as provide its wholehearted support. New SPO CEO Choe Heung-sik told reporters Friday that he believes if the SMG gives Chung a good reason to stay, he might reconsider. This includes a new hall and budget re-appropriation, he said.

The report of Chung's willingness to resign comes as the orchestra takes steps to normalize and stabilize its operations.

Choe, the former head of Hana Financial Group, took office on July 1 as the orchestra's CEO and president, an appointment that came six months after former CEO Park Hyun-jung stepped down following alleged misconduct.

The SPO is recovering from friction that ensued last year surrounding Park's mistreatment of employees. Seventeen employees of the SPO's administrative department issued a press release in December 2014 requesting her removal and an internal investigation into her conduct.

Park claimed Chung was behind such a petition and accused the maestro of abusing his privileges. Park was cleared of all charges on Aug. 11 due to a lack of evidence.

The SPO confirmed in a statement late Friday evening that Chung has indeed expressed wishes to resign as music director of the SPO so that he can focus on his music.

But it added that the decision has yet to be finalized. Choe said talks between Chung and the Seoul Metropolitan Government will wrap up in September, and stressed he will work to change the maestro's mind before then.
Ex-SPO CEO Hyun-jung Park ... onduct.htm
CEO and President of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra Hyun-jung Park Quits, Effective Immediately, After Allegations of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct

Dec 29, 2014 03:42 PM EST | Jaime Prisco (

Hyun-jung Park, president and CEO of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, who was recently accused of sexually harassing and verbally abusing her employees, has announced the she will resign from her post effective immediately.

Park made the announcement during a packed press conference, where she addressed her alleged misconduct.

"I intend to resign as president of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra from today," Park said. ”I am to blame for a large part [of the allegations] and I sincerely apologize for that. Restoring my personal reputation is more important than anything, but I could not bear the abnormal state of the Seoul Phil, which is run on taxpayers's money."

Park’s career fell apart when 17 of the Seoul Philharmonic’s employees testified in a petition that she constantly abused them, with one male employee claiming that she had too much to drink at a public dinner gathering and grabbed him by the necktie, attempting to touch his genitals. Three female employees said Park suggested they offer themselves sexually, telling one she would be a good hostess and the other two that they should sit next to important male guests and accommodate their needs.

But Park did not just make enemies of her employees. Recently, she went head to head with art director and principle conductor Myung-Whun Chung, who she claimed was organizing a coup against her. Park shared that there were documents from audits that track the director's unethical activities and listed four different cases of complaints about his conduct. At the press conference, she personally listed cases where she believed Chung had abused his authoritative power.

Park's resignation offer comes one day before the board of the city orchestra is set to decide whether to fire the female head over the allegations. City officials said the Seoul Phil board plans to discuss Tuesday, Dec. 30, whether to accept the resignation.

Also scheduled for discussion at the board meeting is whether to retain Chung.

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Re: Myung-Whun Chung Telegraph Article

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Chung resigned from the SPO in December. Notice about his final concert: ... 01669.html

Chung Myung-whun Ends Final Concert in Style
Chung Myung-whun pointedly left his baton on the podium on Wednesday after he had finished the last encore, and extract from the fourth movement of Beethoven's ninth symphony. It was to be his final concert as chief conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

Chung then shook hands with each of the 85 members of the orchestra on stage as the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Wednesday's concert at the Seoul Arts Center was a poignant moment for the colorful conductor, who leaves behind an orchestra he coaxed from playing to half-empty houses to one of the top orchestras in Asia during his decade-long tenure.

But controversy about his pay and allegations of embezzlement also grew, in addition to accusations over his conflict with the orchestra's former president Park Hyun-jung.

On Tuesday, Chung sent a letter to all members of the orchestra announcing his resignation.

After the concert he returned to his dressing room without a word, and spent the next 20 minutes taking pictures and sending his regards to the orchestra members.

To the reporters and fans who were waiting for him outside, Chung shouted, "Happy New Year! Thank you!" with a bright smile, and then he was gone. / Dec. 31, 2015 13:26 KST
More in-depth article: ... 94263.html

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Re: Myung-Whun Chung Thread

Post by pianoman »

A little closure:
Maestro Chung Myung-whun cleared of charges

By Hong Dam-young
Published : Jun 23, 2017

Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday dismissed charges against Chung Myun-whun, former music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.
The move came after a 10-month-long investigation into allegations of dereliction of duty and embezzlement made against Chung.

The case arose from complaints filed by several civic organizations in February 2015. Police sent the case to Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in August 2016.

In a statement issued through his legal representative, Chung expressed regret that the honor and achievements of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra had been damaged by groundless allegations. He also stated his desire to contribute to the development of Korean orchestras and to the fostering of talented young musicians.

The acclaimed conductor began at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra in 2005 and served for 10 years. Chung’s departure at the end of 2015 came at a time when the orchestra was beleaguered by controversies and infighting.

Chung is currently Principal Guest Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden and Honorary Conductor Laureate of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
And an update:
Maestro Chung Myung-whun holds on to the dream of oneness

By Kim Hoo-ran
Published : Aug 17, 2017

Bringing people together with music is maestro Chung Myung-whun’s lifetime calling, a calling he has answered this time with One Korea Orchestra, formed specifically for two concerts marking the first anniversary of Lotte Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday.


Chung conceived the idea for One Korea Orchestra in 2013 with the goal of musicians from both South and North Korea performing together.

In September 2011, it was reported that Chung had secured an agreement with North Korean officials in Pyongyang for a joint South-North Korea orchestra to perform in their respective capitals. However, that failed to materialize and Chung had to contend with bringing a North Korean orchestra to Paris.

In 2012, 70 members of North Korea’s Eunhasu Orchestra performed in Paris with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Chung.

Now, Chung has taken up the dream of bringing musicians together with an orchestra composed of musicians from orchestras around the country and abroad.

Tonight’s concert featuring One Korea Orchestra led by Chung and pianist Cho Seong-jin, the 2015 winner of the prestigious International Chopin Piano Competition, will feature Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, popularly known as the “Emperor Concerto,” and the rousing Beethoven Symphony No. 5, also known as “The Destiny.”

“The power of this piece (Symphony No. 5) comes from liberty, freedom. They are values that Beethoven considered the most important. As a musician, Beethoven speaks what is deep within him,” said Chung at a press conference held Wednesday at Lotte Concert Hall. “The force of Beethoven’s fight for freedom expresses itself in the piece,” he said, likening the first movement to “opening the doors wide open.”

Beethoven explores the internal struggles, the beauty and in the end proclaims victory over it all, Chung explained.

The One Korea Orchestra shares similar values with the Asia Philharmonic, which he founded 20 years ago. “There was much tension in Asia at the time,” Chung noted, and he sought to promote understanding by bringing together musicians from different countries in the region. “That orchestra was possible because of the Tokyo International Forum,” he said, saying that this time, Lotte Concert Hall had stepped up to the plate.

“I was looking for a way to bring qualified musicians from various orchestras in Korea to perform together and Lotte anniversary concert became an opportunity,” said Chung.

As for the temporary nature of the orchestra, Chung said that he sees this as just the beginning. “I don’t want it to be a one-time thing. But it will not be a full-time orchestra,” he said, adding that it could perhaps be called together once a year.

While One Korea Orchestra’s future is not certain as of yet, One Korea Youth Orchestra which will give its first performance in January 2018 under Chung will be a permanent fixture at Lotte Concert Hall, performing in summer and winter.

Chung has not relinquished his hopes of forming a joint South-North orchestra.

“I continue to look for opportunities to perform together with North Korea. If there is even an opportunity to form a joint orchestra, on condition that nothing else is attached, I’ll accept it on the spot,” said Chung, who will be donating his fees for the Lotte anniversary concerts to a charity organization involved with North Korean children.

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