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Harpist’s special homecoming

An internationally acclaimed musician, Korean adoptee Lavinia Meijer returns to country of birth with new album

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Published : 2014-02-13 19:40
Updated : 2014-02-15 10:36

Lavinia Meijer. (Sony Music)
Lavinia Meijer is one of the world’s top harpists.

In her home country of the Netherlands, she is a cultural icon who has brought harp, an instrument rarely played solo, to the forefront of its classical music scene.

And she is a Korean adoptee.

Currently in Seoul for her fourth performance in the country, she said getting to grips with her biological roots has had a lasting impact on her music.

“(Coming to Korea) is always special for me,” the 31-year-old harpist said at the Sony Music office in Seoul on Wednesday. She called it a “privilege” as an adoptee and a musician to come back with something to share ― her music.

“That’s, for me, the most special way of coming back.”

Despite her marginal Korean ― she said she took some language lessons in Holland ― she feels that she can communicate with Koreans, thanks to her music.

Meijer was born in Korea in 1983 and adopted to the Netherlands at age two, together with her 4-year-old brother.

During her first visit here in 2009, she met her biological father, whom she still keeps in touch with by email and with the help of a translator.

“After my first performance (in 2009), a woman came to me and said, ‘Thank you for coming back here after all the years to share your music with us.’ It was that moment that I really felt I was being accepted here for who I am.”

She believes that the whole experience in Korea that year added to the depth of her music.

“As an artist, you get better as you grow. Meeting my biological father was for me a big, big step toward adulthood,” she said.

As a teenager, she received an impressive tally of international accolades for playing the standard harp repertoire.

In her 20s, she ventured into various genres ranging from jazz, pop, electronic music to modern classics.

Her 2012 album, which featured the works of American composer Philip Glass that she transcribed, was a hit both critically and commercially. It received five-star reviews from critics and media, and gained certified Platinum status within half a year.

She hopes to repeat that feat with her new album with Sony Classical “Einaudi by Lavinia: Passaggio.” It consists of pieces by Italian composer-pianist Ludovico Einaudi, better known for his work in the French movie “The Intouchables.”

Meijer said she was engrossed in Korean music, too. She hopes to transcribe it for harp and record it some day.

“After my first visit here, I transcribed Arirang for harp and made my own variations. I have since played it all over the Netherlands,” she said.

On Friday, she will perform at Seoul Arts Center jointly with Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. She will play Mozart’s Concerto for Flute & Harp in C Major, K. 299.

At 11 a.m. the next day, she will hold a public showcase for her new album at PungWolDang, a CD shop in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam, Seoul.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)

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