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City in the mountains is a classical music sanctuary

Amid toughest phase of pandemic so far, Music in PyeongChang festival wraps up 11-day run

View from 600 Majigi spot at Cheongoksan in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)
View from 600 Majigi spot at Cheongoksan in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province -- With cool breezes signaling the imminent arrival of fall, the 18th Music in PyeongChang closed Saturday, wrapping up its 11-day run.

While Seoul had been baking in scorching heat for the past few weeks, the air in PyeongChang, a mountain city located some 700-meters above sea level, was cool and refreshing.

This summer edition of the music festival kicked off on July 28 featuring a total of 15 performances.

On Friday, the Alpensia Concert Hall was filled with romantic chamber music as violinist Clara-Jumi Kang, pianist Paik Kun-woo and cellist Kim Doo-min went onstage. The trio performed Debussy’s Piano Trio in G major and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50. 

바위: From left: Violinist Clara-Jumi Kang, pianist Paik Kun-woo and cellist Kim Doo-min perform Debussy’s Piano Trio in G major at the Alpensia Concert Hall in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Friday. (MPyC)
바위: From left: Violinist Clara-Jumi Kang, pianist Paik Kun-woo and cellist Kim Doo-min perform Debussy’s Piano Trio in G major at the Alpensia Concert Hall in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Friday. (MPyC)


It was Paik’s first time at the music festival, and his first piano trio performance in Korea in his 65-year-long career.

At the recital, Paik’s piano performance was pivotal, supporting the violin and the cello to play their roles.

While performing Debussy’s piano trio -- often explained as a “sweet, sentimental, and sugared” work, in the words of the legendary music critic Harold C. Schonberg -- the presence of the piano sometimes took over the whole stage, exuding delicate charm.

For Tchaikovsky’s piano trio written in memory of his close friend Rubinstein who had died the previous year, cellist Kim opened the work with a cello solo part, followed by the trio’s 11 variations.

At the curtain call, Paik hugged Kang and Kim, patting them on the back. 

Trumpeter Alexandre Baty (left front) and pianist Son Yeol-eum (right front) and the PyeongChang Fesitval Orchestra perform Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Op. 35 at the Alpensia Music Tent in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (MPyC)
Trumpeter Alexandre Baty (left front) and pianist Son Yeol-eum (right front) and the PyeongChang Fesitval Orchestra perform Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Op. 35 at the Alpensia Music Tent in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Thursday. (MPyC)

A day before the recital, the PyeongChang Festival Orchestra went onstage for a performance titled “Mirror,” joined by violinist Svetlin Roussev, trumpeter Alexandre Baty and pianist Son Yeol-eum, the festival’s artistic director.

One of the highlights of the concert was Britten’s Simple Symphony, Op. 4. The 1934 symphonic work entertained the audiences with its diverse movements, ranging from the playful pizzicato to sentimental sarabande.

Son, a native of Wonju, Gangwon Province, shone while playing Shostakovich’s Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Op. 35, fully delivering the melodies of the intricate, virtuosic four-part work.

Though the festival took place as slated despite the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, its outreach concerts scheduled to take place at seven locations across Gangwon Province, including the Gangneung Arts Center and Jeongseon Arirang Center, were canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Performers and members of the festival committee all took a preemptive PCR tests before taking part in the festival, according to the festival general manager Park Hye-young.

While the festival was required to leave an empty seat between audience members who did not come together under social distancing Level 3 rules, it left an empty seat between every audience member for safety reasons.

Apart from the 13 main concerts, the festival featured two recitals by the winners of the Isang Yun Competition, cellists Lee Sang-eun and Christine J. Lee, along with 18 master classes.

Organized by the Gangwon Art and Culture Foundation and hosted by Gangwon Province, the festival was launched in 2004 to promote the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The next edition of the biannual festival is to take place in winter.

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