Back To Top

Gamut of big name orchestras onstage in 2020

Fans of classical music in Korea have a lot to look out for in 2020, as the stage will be packed with celebrated orchestras led by old masters and rising stars.

For start, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra is set for a new beginning with its new maestro Osmo Vanska. The Finnish conductor begins his term at the SPO with inaugural concerts at the Lotte Concert hall Feb.14-15. 

Osmo Vanska (Lotte Concert Hall)
Osmo Vanska (Lotte Concert Hall)

The Mahler and Sibelius specialist will be presenting Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor “Resurrection.” Inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the grand masterpiece employs three choirs and two singers.

Another concert of Osmo Vanska to look out for is his visit on June 24 with the Minnesota Orchestra. Having led the US-based orchestra for 16 years, Vanska has earned a reputation as the “orchestra builder.” Reflecting his Finnish background, the program includes Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

Before the inaugural concert of the new leader, the SPO begins the year of 2020 with an old leader, conductor Chung Myung-whun. Chung is to lead the Jan. 5 concert at the Sejong Center featuring Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 56 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique.”

Chung had been the artistic director of the orchestra for 10 years from 2006 to 2015, before his stepped down from his position due to infighting. It is the first time in four years -- after the guest conducting in 2016 -- that the orchestra and the maestro will come together.

“Classical music punk” Teodor Currentzis and his MusicAeterna will grace the stage at the Lotte Concert Hall April 7-8. The Russia-trained conductor is a controversial figure in the classical music scene for his revolutionary approach to music. He and his troupe will visit Korea for the first time, presenting Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Symphony No. 5 and No. 7.

While the 2020 lineup shows a list of new stars, there are also big names making a return to Korea.

Sir Simon Rattle is to make his visit to Korea in October, marking a return after two years, leading the internationally renowned London Symphony Orchestra. Though the two names are enough to stir up classical music fans, the concert gathers more anticipation in featuring local star pianist Cho Seong-jin.

Rattle and Cho have worked together before, when Cho pitched in at the Seoul concert of Rattle leading the Berliner Philharmoniker two years ago. Though Cho was a last-minute substitution for Lang Lang at the time, he put up an epic performance, with Rattle referring to him as a “poet on the keyboard.”

This time, the program is Wagner’s “Lohengrin” Prelude to Act I, Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.

Another awaited visit is that of the Orchestre de Paris in October. The orchestra was slated to visit Korea in April under the baton of Daniel Harding, the former music director of the Orchestre de Paris, but the visit was canceled. 

Orchestre de Paris (Pierre Morales)
Orchestre de Paris (Pierre Morales)

The Paris-based orchestra will grace the stage at the Lotte Concert Hall Oct.17-18, led Russian maestro Tugan Sokhiev. Israeli violinist Gil Shaham will feature for Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3 and Korean star pianist Sunwoo Yekwon will play for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

Sokhiev, also the music director and chief conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra, had visited Korea in 2017 with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.

Apart from the mentioned collaborations with soloists, the program will have a strong French flair -- reflective of the orchestra’s backgrounds -- including Debussy’s “La Mer” and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”

By Im Eun-byel (
catch table
Korea Herald daum