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SSF: 19 and still going strong

Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music to explore talented musician 'families,' April 23 to May 5

By Park Ga-young

Published : April 15, 2024 - 15:21

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(From left) Violinist Danny Koo, Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music Artistic Director and violinist Kang Dong-suk and pianist Park Sang-wook pose for photos during a press conference held at former President Yun Po-sun's residence in Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Monday. (SSF) (From left) Violinist Danny Koo, Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music Artistic Director and violinist Kang Dong-suk and pianist Park Sang-wook pose for photos during a press conference held at former President Yun Po-sun's residence in Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Monday. (SSF)

Why do artists return to the annual Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music, which is staging its 19th edition this year? Pianist Park Sang-wook and violinist Danny Koo, who have performed at the festival for several years, said that it’s a festival that offers valuable opportunities for artists and audiences alike.

“Soloists spend a lot of time practicing alone and critiquing themselves, which can lead to feelings of depression. While I can express my emotions and colors during performances with the audience, chamber music rehearsals create a new allure by blending different sounds,” Koo told reporters during a press conference on Monday.

"It feels like a space where unique musicians can gather. Engaging in chamber music allows me to learn and feel purified,” said the Korean-American violinist, who will join the festival for the fifth year.

Park, a member of the ShinPark Duo of piano, which won second prize in the ARD International Music Competition in 2016, said that the festival offers a chance to discover lesser-known but great music.

Park has been participating in the festival since 2017.

“Every year, I'm amazed at artistic director Kang Dong-suk’s ability to uncover new work,” Park said. "I believe that the Seoul Spring Festival showcases accomplished performers on stage. Therefore, regardless of whether the program is familiar or not, I encourage the audience to let go of preconceptions and have faith in the performers,” Park added.

(From left) Violinist Danny Koo, Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music Artistic Director and violinist Kang Dong-suk and pianist Park Sang-wook participate in a press conference held at former President Yun Po-sun's residence in Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Monday. (SSF) (From left) Violinist Danny Koo, Seoul Spring Festival of Chamber Music Artistic Director and violinist Kang Dong-suk and pianist Park Sang-wook participate in a press conference held at former President Yun Po-sun's residence in Anguk-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul Monday. (SSF)

“Introducing unfamiliar yet good music is the duty of our festival," Kang, a renowned violinist who launched the festival 19 years ago, said.

“There were many difficult moments, but the passion of the performing musicians was a great help. Participating in the festival doesn't necessarily advance their careers, but they do so out of their love for chamber music. Core performers keep returning and passionate audience members have helped the festival's sustainability.” Kang noted.

Difficult moments include instability in funding, which is usually confirmed just a couple of months before the festival, or the audience’s lack of understanding of chamber music.

The pianist Park said he hopes more audience experience the music genre firsthand.

“It seems difficult to appreciate chamber music without experiencing it firsthand, but attending concerts where you can trust the performers allows you to truly feel its charm,” Park said.

The theme of this year's festival is “All in the Family,” broadly interpreting the meaning of the word "family" from various perspectives.

"Family is a significant part of our lives, as well as the lives of musicians. In addition, a family doesn't necessarily have to be blood-related; there are various types of families. So, there are musical families, and, for example, there are families formed through musical partnerships. So, we've tried to explore and incorporate this diversity into our programming efforts," Kang said.

SSF will kick off with an opening concert on April 23 at Sejong Chamber Hall and run until May 5, offering a total of 14 performances with 60 artists, at various venues including Seoul Arts Center's IBK Chamber Hall, the gallery Artspace3 and former President Yun Bo-sun's residence.