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SPO preps for return to stage

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra performs Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony on July 9 at the Lotte Concert Hall in eastern Seoul. (SPO)
The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra performs Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony on July 9 at the Lotte Concert Hall in eastern Seoul. (SPO)

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra is gearing up for a new start, after months of lull due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Like most other orchestras and music acts around the world, the SPO has had a rather underwhelming 2020.

This year, the SPO took to the stage stage in February -- when its music director Osmo Vanska led two inaugural concerts in Seoul -- and in June and July, before performances were halted again as the number of COVID-19 cases spiked in August.

But as Korea has eased its social distancing scheme by one notch to Level 1 starting Oct. 12, the orchestra announced its return to the stage with a tight schedule of nine main concerts in November and December.

Music director Vanska will go onstage with the SPO in November, after going through his third quarantine in Korea. He had undergone the mandatory two-week self-quarantine twice, in June and August, for SPO concerts.

On Nov. 1, the SPO will perform London-based Korean composer Shin Dong-hoon’s “The Hunter’s Funeral” at the Lotte Concert Hall in eastern Seoul. Shin studied under the celebrated contemporary music composer Chin Un-suk through the SPO’s masterclass program.

Violinist Lee Ji-yoon, who has been granted lifetime tenure as the concertmaster at the Staatskapelle Berlin, will perform Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216 before the SPO wraps up the evening with Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 “Scottish.”

Later in the month, Vanska will lead the SPO in Prokofiev Symphony No. 1, Op. 25 “Classical” at the Seoul Arts Center in southern Seoul on Nov. 20. The program also includes Sibelius Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52.

A week later, on Nov. 27, the SPO will present Dvorak Serenade for Wind Instruments, Op. 44 at the Lotte Concert Hall and music by Beethoven and Brahms.

In an era of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has been witnessing more chamber music performances as the genre can be presented by smaller groups of musicians onstage.

Reflecting the trend, the SPO will hold a chamber music concert, too, on Nov. 28 at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in central Seoul, featuring 14 members of the SPO and guest pianist Lee Hyo-joo.

In December, conductor Markus Stenz, who has long been affiliated with the SPO, will return for a concert. Stenz is expecting his second quarantine in Korea, following one in June.

Bringing the roller-coaster year of 2020 to a close is the performance of Beethoven‘s “Choral,” an SPO tradition, which may bring some comfort to people whose lives have been disrupted by the novel coronavirus. Stenz will take the baton for the SPO’s performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 “Choral,” Dec. 18-20 at Lotte Concert Hall.

While the well-known symphony requires a full orchestra along with a large choir, the SPO will present the symphonic work arranged by Finnish conductor, composer and violinist Jaakko Kuusisto for appropriate social distancing onstage.

The SPO said concerts for Dec. 5-6 will be announced later after a change in its program and cast. The concerts for November and December are slated to be held as in-person events but may be streamed online depending on the COVID-19 situation at the time.

The concerts will leave an empty seat between audience members. Tickets range from 10,000 won to 90,000 won. For more information, check the SPO’s official website at www.seoulphil.or.kr.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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