The Korea Herald


167-year-old orchestra with young masters at the fore to perform in Korea

Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra to explore French-Russian music connection

By Park Ga-young

Published : Dec. 13, 2022 - 00:16

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Aziz Shokhakimov, the music director of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra. (Nicolas Roses) Aziz Shokhakimov, the music director of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra. (Nicolas Roses)

A 167-year-old historic French orchestra is set to perform in Korea this month with two young music masters at the fore.

The Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Strasbourg -- a French city on the border with on Germany -- will perform a repertoire that shows the musical connection between France and Russia, its music director Aziz Shokhakimov told reporters on Thursday. The orchestra will perform Bizet’s Carmen Suite No.1, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.2 and Mussorgsky’s "Pictures at an Exhibition."

“Russian and French music are very much connected and I think French composers were very much influenced by Russian composers such as Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and later on Stravinsky,” the conductor said. “Also, when Tchaikovsky went to listen to Bizet’s 'Carmen,' he said the piece will the most famous opera in the future,” he noted.

The France-Russia connection will also be shown in the performance of Ravel’s 1922 adaptation of Mussorgsky’s piece for a full symphony orchestra, Shokhakimov added.

Ukraine-born Shokhakimov already has an impressive career at just 34. He debuted with the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan at 13 and at 18 became the principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan.

While the orchestra will present a connection between France and Russia, it will also offer a unique style that is influenced by both France and Germany.

“My orchestra is very precise; we do everything exactly as is written on the score. On the other hand, we’re very flexible. I think these qualities, which are from Germany and France, are our strengths,” the conductor said.

Another young master, French pianist Alexandre Kantorow, whose musicality, technique and strong energy the conductor praised, will join the Strasbourg Philharmonic in upcoming concerts.

The 25-year-old pianist won the gold medal and the Grand Prix at the 16th International Tchaikovsky Competition in 2019 and was touted as a "Liszt reincarnated" by American music magazine Fanfare and as a "fire-breathing virtuoso with a poetic charm" by the London-based classical music magazine Gramophone.

"As much as the praises are great and nice, I also know that I need to keep a bit of distance with those praises or critics because as musicians, I think we are the best when we just give our natural relation to music without any external things," Kantorow said.

The pianist also added that he is curious about Korean pianist Lim Yun-chan's next step after his win at the 2022 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in June. Lim, 18, is the competition's youngest-ever winner.

"Like a lot of other people, I was absolutely blown away that at this age to capture this much balance in music, to have this much control over his technique, and to be of this much service to the music," he added.

"I'm very interested in what he will do because I know after the competition is the moment when you build your character and you choose your own programs -- and also because he's off the chart," Kantorow said.

The Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and Kantorow will tour four Korean cities, performing in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province on Dec. 16, Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province on Dec. 18, Andong, North Gyeongsang Province on Dec. 19 and at Seoul Art Center on Dec. 20.

French pianist Alexandre Kantorow (Jean-Baptiste Millot) French pianist Alexandre Kantorow (Jean-Baptiste Millot)