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Munich Philharmonic sets milestones with Lim Yun-chan [Herald Review]

Dec. 4, 2023 - 19:26 By Park Ga-young
Pianist Lim Yun-chan performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 with the Munich Philharmonic at The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 29. (Sejong Center)

The Munich Philharmonic has set several milestones while in Korea.

The orchestra made a rare Korea-exclusive tour of seven concerts around the country, including one at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, where the orchestra and pianist Lim Yun-chan took the stage. It was a record-breaking concert for the center -- the tickets for the 2,953-seat Grand Theater were sold out within a minute upon ticket sales opening in August, despite the fact that the Sejong Center is not considered the best venue for classical concerts.

Lim's ticket-selling power was proven once again throughout the Munich Philharmonic's tour, with four concerts featuring the 19-year-old pianist selling out.

Lim had provided Liszt's Nocturne No. 3, "Dreams of Love," as an encore piece for the previous two concerts at the Seoul Arts Center on Nov. 26 and at the Sejong Center on Nov. 29. For the final concert on Friday, he also showed his rendition of Chopin's Etude No. 3.

"I am so glad I could see all the three concerts," said a woman talking on the phone as she exited the Lotte Concert Hall on Friday. She was referring to the concerts at the Seoul Arts Center, Sejong Center and Lotte Concert Hall, all of which featured Lim. "'Eroica' sounded different -- so much better this time than last week," the woman added. She was referring to Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica," which the Munich Philharmonic performed for the second part of the concert.

Pianist Lim Yun-chan performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 at the Lotte Concert Hall on Friday. (Vincero)

Wrapping up the seven concerts that took place from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1, maestro Chung Myung-whun told the audience that the fact that a prestigious overseas orchestra like the Munich Philharmonic chose to perform in Korea seven times without visiting Japan or China first holds great meaning, as Korea has developed significantly and the audience for classical music has grown substantially, as well.

Then he proceeded to perform an encore, saying, “There is no one in Korea who doesn’t know this piece.”

The encore began with powerful timpani beats, immediately capturing attention and paving the way for the entrance of the soft sound of a woodwind performer. Solo performers of clarinet, flute and trumpet gracefully stood in turn to present the familiar melody.

Conductor Chung Myung-whun greets the audience after finishing the last concert of the Munich Philharmonic's Korea tour at the Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul on Friday. (Vincero)

When the audience realized that it was none other than "Arirang," the audience was unable to resist breaking into spontaneous applause at both the Sejong Center and the Lotte Concert Hall. After the performance, Chung tapped his chest with his right fist several times, while enjoying a standing ovation.

That moment marked a special finale to the concert that was repeated seven times in six different places with two Korean musicians: violinist Clara Jumi Kang and pianist Lim Yun-chan.

The final performance of the Munich Philharmonic also signaled the conclusion of a series of concerts featuring some of the world's top orchestras in November: The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra led by Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra led by conductor Kirill Petrenko, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Italian conductor Fabio Luisi and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under the baton of its music director, Andris Nelsons.

The string of performances by top orchestras reflects the expanding audience for classical music in South Korea. Contributing to the interest in classical music here are star performers like Lim Yun-chan and Cho Seong-jin.

Cho, who was announced the Berlin Philharmonic's Artist in Residence last month, took the stage with the orchestra on Nov. 12 to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major, Op. 58. Only three days later, pianist Cho Seong-jin presented Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54 in a performance with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Two concerts by two different orchestras featuring Cho were both sold out.

While excessive enthusiasm could potentially hinder their musical development, November proved that a star performer with powerful charisma can create a new audience base and inject vitality into the classical music scene.