Chung Myung-whun traces his musical roots

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 25, 2014 - 20:51
  • Updated : Aug 25, 2014 - 20:51
Maestro Chung Myung-whun will hold his first-ever solo recitals as a pianist this fall, playing the complete Chopin ballades and other short piano pieces. 

The five-city concert tour, which includes a stop at Seoul Art Center on Oct. 16, will mark the celebrated conductor’s return to his musical roots after a nearly four-decade career at the podium.

“I always dreamed of doing my own music when I turn 60 ― real music, not music as work,” he said of the upcoming recitals. “Piano is, for me, real music.” 
Chung Myung-whun (PRM)

Chung started playing the instrument at age 5 and made his debut just two years later with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, which he now conducts.

In 1974, at age 21, he won second prize in the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow. At that time it was the highest honor won by a Korean in the prestigious contest.

He played mostly as a member of the Chung Trio with his sisters, cellist Chung Myung-wha and violinist Chung Kyung-hwa, before switching fully to conducting in 1979.

As a conductor, he led many internationally acclaimed orchestras and opera houses, including Opera Bastille, Radio France, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic and London Symphony. Since 2006, he has been with the Seoul Philharmonic as artistic director and conductor.

He is currently on a European tour with Seoul Philharmonic and is to lead the Korean orchestra’s debut at BBC Proms in London on Wednesday.

The maestro turned 60 last year and released his first solo piano album, “Chung Myung-whun, Piano,” which is a compilation of short and familiar piano pieces, including Mozart’s Variations on “Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) and Beethoven’s “Fr Elise (For Elise).”

He said it was a “light-hearted project” and that he “wouldn’t call it a real pianist’s piano album.”

In the upcoming recital tour, the maestro will present a program consisting of all four Chopin ballades, Brahms’ Four Pieces for Piano Op. 119 and some from the album.

He will play in Changwon on Oct. 5, Daegu on Oct. 12, Seoul on Oct. 16, Daejeon on Oct. 18 and Goyang on Oct. 20. Ticket sales will begin Thursday, with prices ranging from 44,000 won to 132,000 won. For details, call (02) 558-4588.

On Sept. 10, he will lead a concert of the Asia Philharmonic Orchestra on the podium and on piano keyboard. The APO is a project group which he founded in 1997 with about 70 Asian members of about 20 world-renowned orchestras.

The program consists of Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 56, with Chung himself on piano, and Dvorak, Symphony No. 7 in d minor Op. 70. Ticket prices range from 50,000 won to 150,000 won. For more information, call (02)720-3933.

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