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SPO cements status with record deal

Seoul Philharmonic signs long-term license agreement with Deutsche Grammophon


Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director Chung Myung-whun said on Thursday the orchestra had inked a long-term license contract with Deutsche Grammophon.

“It’s been six years since I took the helm of the SPO. Signing a contract with the world’s top classical music record label Deutsche Grammophon is a big step,” Chung told reporters in Seoul, just before the signing ceremony between the SPO and Universal Music Group International.

Deutsche Grammophon, Universal Music Group International label, enjoys more than 40 percent of the global classical music market, according to the company officials.

“If the SPO wants to become one of the best orchestras in the world, it has to offer lots of recordings and tours. I’ll be satisfied if we become a world class orchestra after releasing 10 albums in the next five years,” Chung said.

Under the contract with Deutsche Grammophon, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra will release two albums every year for five years, with the first album release expected in the second half of 2011.

The Seoul Phil started recordings with Deutsche Grammophon in 2010 and has finished three recordings ― French repertoire Debussy and Ravel, Mahler Symphony No.1 and No. 2 ― with artistic advisor and producer Michael Fine.

In 2011, the orchestra is scheduled to record Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6, Korean composer Chin Un-suk’s “Su” and Mahler Symphony No. 9.

“When I was studying at the Julliard School in New York some decades ago, I used to hear critics saying that even though Korean students were good soloists, they didn’t do much team work. And it was still hard to find a good Korean orchestra five years ago and it broke my heart,” Chung said.

Chung’s term as music director of the SPO ends this year but he said he did not really care how long he would be with the orchestra.
Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra music director Chung Myung-whun looks on as Universal Music Group International senior vice president Costa Pilavachi (right) and SPO CEO Kim Joo-ho shake hands after signing a long-term license agreement between the orchestra and UMGI’s Deutsche Grammophon in Seoul on Thursday. (SPO)
Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra music director Chung Myung-whun looks on as Universal Music Group International senior vice president Costa Pilavachi (right) and SPO CEO Kim Joo-ho shake hands after signing a long-term license agreement between the orchestra and UMGI’s Deutsche Grammophon in Seoul on Thursday. (SPO)

“I started working with the SPO without any thought about the length of my term. As long as the SPO keeps growing with my participation and as long as you want me to keep doing this job, I’ll do it,” Chung said.

The SPO’s long-term license agreement with Deutsche Grammophon is the first in Asia.

Universal Music Group International’s senior vice president Costa Pilavachi said its contract with SPO shows that the dynamic force in the classical music industry is moving from Europe to Asia.

“Deutsche Grammophon has more than 150 years of history and most of its history has been centered in Europe. But future growth will come much more from Korea and other parts of Asia than it will from Europe,” Pilavachi said.

“It’s important for us to become a true global label and the contract with the SPO is a big step in that direction,” he said.

Pilavachi said the successful contract between the two was a combination of many factors such as Chung’s involvement in the SPO, a fast improvement of the orchestra and an increasing importance of Korea as a musical force in the world happening at the same time.

The SPO’s next 10 albums with Deutsche Grammophon label will be sold in more than 45 countries.

In May, the SPO and Chung will be on a Tokyo tour from May 9 to May 12, while some international artists are canceling concerts in Japan due to radiation fears.

The orchestra’s CEO Kim Joo-ho said the SPO will go ahead with its original tour plan, saying that “unless there is a big threat to health of the SPO members, we will go ahead and that is our job to console Japanese classical music fans.”

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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