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[Herald Interview] Orchestre National de Metz hopes to share pure joy, inspiration through French classical music

Metz’s tour of five cities will mark first visit by foreign orchestra this year

Orchestre National de Metz (Cyrille Guir)
Orchestre National de Metz (Cyrille Guir)
Orchestre National de Metz, one of the 12 French national orchestras, will embark on a five-city tour of Korea this week in Daegu, becoming the first foreign orchestra to perform in the country this year and signaling a return to normalcy in international concert tours.

“It took a long process of nearly three years for (Metz) orchestra to tour Korea because of the COVID-19 crisis. It is really an honor and joy to see this tour coming to conclusion,” Orchestre National de Metz’s music and artistic director David Reiland said during a Zoom interview with a group of Korean reporters on Friday.

“When the orchestra visited Korea in 2016, musicians kept a very strong memory of a warm welcome of Korean people. They were overwhelmed and I was very surprised. I’d like to fulfill (the audience’s) expectation again with the (concert’s) program -- (music composed by) Louis-Hector Berlioz and Camille Saint-Saens,” he said.

David Reiland, music and artistic director of Orchestre National de Metz (Cyrille Cauvet)
David Reiland, music and artistic director of Orchestre National de Metz (Cyrille Cauvet)
Founded in 1976, Orchestre National de Metz became a national organization in 2016. The orchestra, then the National Orchestra of Lorraine, performed in Korea for the first time in 2016 as part of celebrations marking the 130th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Korea and France.

The upcoming tour was originally planned for last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Saint-Saens’ death but was postponed due to the protracted COVID-19 pandemic.

The orchestra will open the 120-minute concert with Berlioz’s overture to “Beatrice and Benedict” and perform Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3 and Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 with violinist Yang In-mo and French organist Olivier Vernet, respectively, except for the Daejeon concert. The Daejeon program will feature Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, in place of Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3.

Before planning the tour, performing with Korean musicians has always been on Reiland’s mind, as it allows Metz to build a “relationship of brotherhood” through classical music, he said. The director appreciated Yang’s performance in the past and thought he was the musician who truly understands what French music is, Reiland said. 

Violinist Yang In-mo (Lee Sang-wook)
Violinist Yang In-mo (Lee Sang-wook)
Yang, who is based in Germany, has won various international competitions, including the first prize of the 54th edition of the International Paganini Competition in Genoa, Italy, in 2015. His performance of Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with Orchestre National de France in 2019 was well-received by critics. The upcoming concerts will mark Yang’s first nationwide tour with an international orchestra.

“I’m very pleased to perform Saint-Saens’ concerto with the Metz orchestra for the first time in Korea. While my other concerts scheduled for last year got canceled, being cast as a performer (for the tour) was like a welcome rain in a drought,” Yang said during the interview.

The Korean violinist said French music still feels like his “second native language,” and he is putting much effort into forging a closer bond with its sounds. He is also very much into French culture, he said.

“Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3 is a very meaningful music since it allowed me to perform in front of a French audience for the first time. It’s also pleasing to play because it can show the elegant sounds of French music ... I think Saint-Saens’ concerto will likely be included in my repertoire,” Yang said.

After opening the tour in Daegu on Friday, Orchestre National de Metz will perform in Iksan, North Jeolla Province, on Saturday. The following day will see the orchestra perform in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. On May 2, the orchestra will perform in Daejeon and the tour will wrap up at Seoul Arts Center in Seoul on May 3.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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