Salon Concert held at the house of Yun Po-sun in Anguk-dong, central Seoul, during the 2020 Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music (SSF)
The Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music will sing “Ode to Joy” to celebrate a belated 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, after the program was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The spring festival last year was pushed back to the fall where they presented a non-Beethoven repertoire, as well as to observe the required social distancing measures.
“This year, we will do what we could not do last year,” Kang Dong-suk, violinist and artistic director of the festival, said during an online press event held Monday. He participated in the event from his home in Paris, where he is based.
Artistic Director Kang Dong-suk (SSF)
“This year’s program consists of not often played pieces and works that the SSF has not featured before,” Kang said.
The festival, slated for May 13-23, will take place at several venues around Seoul -- the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, the Seoul Arts Center and the house of Yun Po-sun, Korea’s former president.
Fifty-two artists will be performing at the 11-day festival to celebrate the anniversary of the great German musician. It will be the first time for pianists Kim Kyu-yeon, Kim Jun-hee, Lee Jin-sang, guitarists Park Kyu-hee, Park Jong-ho and violinist Han Soo-jin to perform at the festival that is in its 16-year run.
“There are performers that we have met before, and also new faces, too. It is important to make opportunities to discover new artists,” Kang said. “It especially is important for young artists to interact with experienced musicians through events like this.”
The title of the festival is from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the fourth movement “Ode to Joy” for two pianos. German poet Friedrich Schiller wrote the ode in celebration of brotherhood in 1785 and Beethoven used it as the lyrics for his composition.
Kang will arrive in Seoul on April 26, and join the rehearsals after going through the mandatory two-week quarantine.
“In Korea, recitals and concerts are taking place normally. But still, I am worried about the festival being able to take place as planned if (the pandemic) situation gets worse,” Kang said. “I hope that the festival can proceed as planned as music can be a great comfort in hard times.”
The festival will kick off at the Sejong Center on May 13 with the first out of 11 recitals. Titled “Beethoven’s Contemporaries,” it will also feature works by Hummel and Boccherini, along with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Recitals on May 16 and 17 will take place at the garden of the Yun Po-sun house in Anguk-dong.
Violinist Kang will perform four times throughout the festival.
The festival will close with the finale “Mad for Gallic,” presenting works by Debussy, Schmitt, Saint-Saens and, of course, Beethoven.
Tickets for the performances cost from 20,000 won to 150,000 won.
Poster image for the 2021 Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music (SSF)