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World’s oldest civic orchestra returns to Seoul

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra to perform Dvorak violin concerto, Bruckner symphony

The world’s oldest civic orchestra, which moved Korean hearts with its uniquely weighty sounds in 1995, is to return to Seoul with maestro Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly taking the helm Monday and Tuesday.

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra has its origins in “Grand Concert,” a concert society founded by 16 textile merchants in 1743. The name of the orchestra comes from the name of the building “Gewandhaus” where the society had meetings.

The orchestra is famous for performing all of Beethoven’s symphonies during the composer’s lifetime and presenting the world’s first complete Bruckner cycle as well as the first Shostakovich cycle during the 1970s.

It gained its strong presence, in particular, when Mendelssohn became the orchestra’s music director in 1835. Since 2005, Chailly has been serving as the orchestra’s 19th music director.

For the upcoming concerts, Chailly and the LGO will perform Dvorak’s Carnival Overture Op. 92, Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 and Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70 on Monday, with Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos collaborating. On Tuesday, they will present only one program, Buckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C minor, in the 1890 version edited by musicologist Leopold Nowak.

Chailly, known for his extensive repertoire ranging from Bach to 20th-century music, is likely to add his own color to the Dvorak’s romantic symphony and Bruckner’s conservative symphony, concert organizer Vincero said.
Riccardo Chailly, music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

The 57-year-old conductor has performed in Seoul only twice ― in 1984 when he collaborated with the U.K.’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and pianist Lee Kyung-sook for Beethoven’s Concerto No. 5, and in 1996 when he staged Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of the Netherlands.

Dubbed “the violinist of the devil,” Kavakos is known for rare quality of virtuosity. He rose to international stardom as he topped the International Sibelius Competition, won silver at the Indianapolis International Violin Competition and topped the Paganini Violin Competition, at the age of 18 to 21 from 1985 to 1988.

It will be interesting to see if Kavakos adds an improvised grace note or overstresses the accentuation during the Dvorak concerto performance, as he normally does when collaborating with orchestras. 
Violinist Leonidas Kavakos. (Vincero)
Violinist Leonidas Kavakos. (Vincero)

The German orchestra’s concerts will take place at the Seoul Arts Center’s Concert Hall at 8 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. Tickets range from 60,000 won to 300,000 won on Monday and 50,000 won to 280,000 won on Tuesday. For details, call (02) 599-5743.

City of Leipzig’s investment promotion in Korea

The LGO’s concerts in Seoul are part of Leipzig city’s efforts to promote its value as a business location for Korean manufacturers in the auto parts and medical equipment industries, according to the German Embassy in Korea.

A delegation, led by Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung, is visiting Korea from March 6 to March 10 to lure interest in investments and business settlements of Korea in the eastern city of Germany, which is located near the Czech Republic and Poland, said Hans-Ulrich Seidt, Ambassador of Germany to Korea.

“Leipzig has had special relations with Korea from the late Joseon Dynasty. German diplomat Moellendorff, who was the first and only foreigner to achieve the first rank of the Korean government, later took his Korean collection to a museum in Leipzig,” Seidt said.

The collection that Moellendorff took to Leipzig includes Korean coins, porcelain, tables, weapons, mats, toys and smoking pipes used during the late Joseon Dynasty.

In the future, there are many areas that Korea and Leipzig can cooperate in, Seidt said.

A new international airport in Leipzig where cargo flights can take off and land 24 hours a day will benefit Korean auto parts suppliers, while Frankfurt International Airport shuts down after 10 p.m. due to the dense population in Frankfurt, he said.

“As the airport is located near factories of German automakers such as BMW and Porche, Korean suppliers will be interested in investing there,” Seidt said.

The delegation from Leipzig will visit Ulsan, Gwangju and Incheon for cooperation in the auto, medical and logistics industry, respectively, the German Embassy said.

By Kim Yoon-mi (