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New SPO music director will lead opening concert with Brahms

Dec. 25, 2022 - 15:04 By Hwang Dong-hee
Jaap van Zweden (SPO)

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's incoming music director Jaap van Zweden, will lead the opening concert of 2023 with his signature repertoire, Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68, at the Lotte Concert Hall, on Jan. 12 and 13.

Van Zweden will lead the SPO six months earlier than originally scheduled. The Dutch conductor was scheduled to conduct regular SPO concerts in July, November and December in 2023.

The Brahms' masterpiece took the German composer 21 years to complete and is one of the major repertoires for both van Zweden and the orchestra, said the SPO.

Wagner’s prelude from the opera “The Mastersingers of Nuremberg,” the prelude and liebestod from the opera “Tristan and Isolde,” and an overture from J. Strauss’ libretto “The Bat” will also be performed.

Osmo Vanska, the outgoing music director, was scheduled to return to Korea as a guest conductor in January and March next year to complete the Sibelius Cycle, a project covering all of the Finnish composer’s symphonies -- although his tenure ends at the end of this year.

The Finnish music director, who is still recovering from a fall injury, cannot travel to Korea for the January concerts, according to the SPO. An SPO official said it was unclear whether Vanska will be leading the March concert, and added that the orchestra will explore ways to complete the Sibelius cycle.

Vanska, who was also supposed to take the stage for the year-end repertoire of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral” on Dec. 14-16, was substituted by Korean pianist-conductor Kim Sun-wook.

In a press release Wednesday, SPO said it had contacted several conductors to continue the Sibelius Cycle but none could make it due to scheduling issues.

SPO explained the situation to the incoming van Zweden, who then canceled his other engagements to lead the SPO's regular concert.

Van Zweden is set to manage rehearsals and press conferences from Jan. 10 after he finishes a concert with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam on Jan. 8, said the SPO.

Van Zweden serves as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, a post he has held since 2018, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic since 2012.