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Transcending boundaries, Tongyeong's leading musical festival returns

March 31, 2023 - 17:13 By Park Ga-young
Poster for the 21st Tongyeong International Music Festival hangs on the wall of the Tongyeong Concert Hall on Friday. (Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald)

TONGYEONG, South Gyeongsang Province -- South Korea’s leading classical music event, the “Tongyeong International Music Festival,” kicked off Friday with the theme “Beyond Borders.”

The festival's 21st installment, led by Korean composer Chin Unsuk as the music director for the second year, runs until April 9, featuring renowned domestic and international musicians and unique programs.

“Beyond Borders” embodies Chin’s intentions to transcend various boundaries. “It is an extension of last year’s theme 'Vision in Diversity.' We’re not focusing on one (theme) but will instead transcend genres, eras and different musical worlds, and the boundaries between East and West," she said during a press conference at the Tongyeong Concert Hall on Friday.

“Unlike last year when we faced many pandemic-related restrictions and cancellations, this year, I’m happy to say everyone accepted our invitation and will arrive as planned,” Chin added.

To kick off the festival, Tongyeong Festival Orchestra with conductor David Robertson have prepared a concert with violinist Leonidas Kavakos and Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, a seven-member German vocal group.

Kavakos, a renowned Greek musician, is this year's TIMF Artist in Residence along with Korean pianist Kim Sun-wook. A stage connecting Kavakos with Korea’s rising musicians was Chin’s goal, she said.

“‘Kavkos and Friends’ on Monday will bring pianist Kim Sun-wook, violinist Yang In-mo, violist Park Ha-yang and cellist Han Jae-min together for a one-of-a-kind performance. I can guarantee this is the world’s finest combination,” Chin said, adding that the festival’s goal is to offer unique and rare repertories to the audiences.

A recital by Sergei Babayan, an Armenian-American pianist, who will make a rare trip to the East, will also provide a unique opportunity for the audience, the music director said.

The festival will also feature familiar composers like Gyorgy Ligeti and Sergei Rachmaninoff to commemorate the 100th and 150th respective anniversaries of their birthdays.

This year’s festival will also present three canceled performances from the previous two years --Harry Partch Plectra and Percussion Dance, drag queen singer Lee Hee-moon’s Project Nal and the Busan Philharmonic Orchestra, which will perform the Asian premier of Shin Dong-hoon’s "Double Act for sheng, accordion and orchestra," among others.

TIMF was founded in 2002 to commemorate the late composer Yun I-sang, who was born in Sancheong, near Tongyeong, in 1917. TIMF serves as an artistic ambassador for the southern coastal city, a UNESCO Creative City of Music.

Chin Unsuk, music director of the Tongyeong International Music Festival, attends a press conference held at Tongyeong Concert Hall on Friday. (Park Ga-young/The Korea Herald)