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Composer Chin Un-suk talks SPO feud, annual ‘Ars Nova’ series

During a press conference Thursday that was originally organized to introduce the organization’s 10th annual “Ars Nova” contemporary music concert series, longtime Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra composer-in-residence Chin Un-suk appeared determined to call out allegations by former Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra CEO Park Hyun-jung.

In the midst of a continuing legal debacle, coupled with the recent announcement by police that the allegations by 10 SPO employees of verbal and sexual abuse by the former CEO were found to be false, the talk at the press conference quickly turned to the city’s drama-plagued orchestra.

“In a past interview with one media outlet, our former CEO Park Hyun-jung stated that I threated not to renew my contract with the orchestra if she did not resign, and I just want to go on record saying that claim is false,” she said. “But even though her claims against me are untrue, I have no intentions of pursing any sort of consuming legal battle against her false statements.”

German-Korean cellist Isang Enders (left) and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra composer-in-residence Chin Un-suk speak at a press conference held at the SPO practice room at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra)
German-Korean cellist Isang Enders (left) and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra composer-in-residence Chin Un-suk speak at a press conference held at the SPO practice room at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra)

“Despite all of the ongoing issues with the orchestra, I just wanted to say the SPO has my full support and that I will continue my duties as the composer-in-residence for the time being,” Chin added, also noting that due to the sudden resignation of conductor Chung Myung-whun, the future of her beloved annual concert series is still up in the air.

Upholding its decade-long tradition, this year’s Ars Nova concert series will once again introduce a number of modern classical music pieces making their Korean, Asian and even world premieres. The two-part concert series is slated to kick off its first chamber concert performance on March 30, followed by its closing orchestral concert performance on April 5.
“One of the things I am trying to accomplish with this Ars Nova series is to stress the importance of contemporary music,” said Chin. “No matter how many songs I compose and all of the works that I have done in my long career overseas, the moments when I feel the most pride and the most honored are in the work that I accomplish in this series.”

Returning to the Arts Nova series after two years is German-Korean cellist Isang Enders. 

Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra composer-in-residence Chin Un-suk speaks at a press conference held at the SPO practice room at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra)
Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra composer-in-residence Chin Un-suk speaks at a press conference held at the SPO practice room at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Thursday. (Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra)

“The opportunity to play these concertos, which are rare with some being played for the first time in Korea, is a special honor,” said Enders during the press conference.

“There is hardly any music series that I know that concentrates so much on contemporary music as the Ars Nova series,” he added. “Rather than trying to please the audience, (the series) is showing what else is possible for people to listen to. ... It’s one of the most important things we can do as musicians. Even if it’s just for (the liking) of a few people, it’s worth doing.”

The cellist is slated to perform a handful of concertos, including Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Mania for Solo Cello and Ensemble,” as well as Dmitri Shostakovich’s suite from the opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” both of which will be performed in Korea for the first time, with the accompaniment of the SPO.

“As an orchestra, our job is to deliver beautiful music to our fellow society members,” Chin added. “We are supported by taxpayer money and this is something that we really cherish, and remind ourselves to come together and keep our focus on the art of our music.”

The first program in the Ars Nova series will be performed at the Sejong Center on March 30 with ticket prices ranging from 10,000 won ($8.60) to 30,000 won. The second performance of the series will be staged at the LG Arts Center in Gangnam-gu on April 5, with ticket prices ranging from 10,000 won to 50,000 won. For more information, call 1588-1210. 

By Julie Jackson (juliejackson@heraldcorp.com)
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