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Tongyeong Int'l Music Festival continues to embody diversity

March 31, 2024 - 13:34 By Park Ga-young
French violist Antoine Tamestit performs with the Tongyeong Festival Orchestra conducted by Stanislav Kochanovsky during the opening concert of the Tongyeong International Music Festival at Tongyeong Concert Hall in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province on Friday. (TIMF)

TONGYEONG, South Gyeongsang Province -- The Tongyeong International Music Festival commenced Friday with its artistic director Chin Unsuk saying she’s hoping to provide a beautiful moment that will remain forever with an underlying theme of diversity.

"We always strive to present as many diverse elements as possible to the audience within this short period,” she said. “For the past two years of the festival, I have often thought that this moment, when we share this beautiful moment with all of you who have come from afar to find this beautiful music festival, listening to such beautiful music, will remain forever in our hearts,” Chin, a leading composer who won the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2024, said during a press conference held Friday, the first day of the 22nd edition of the festival.

Under Chin's directorship, the previous two installments ran under the themes of “Vision in Diversity" in 2022 and "Beyond Borders" in 2023.

Chin noted that this year’s music festival runs with two focal points - three artists-in-residence - violist Antoine Tamestit, pianist Bertrand Chamayou, flutist Emmanuel Pahud - and the late composer-in-residence Peter Eotvos who passed away March 24.

Eotvos' five works commissioned by the Tongyeong International Music Foundation are being performed during the festival. They include "Secret Kiss" (composed in 2018) and "Aurora" (2019), whose premieres were initially planned for 2020 at the festival but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chin recalled the time she visited his home in Budapest in 2022 to discuss the program for the music festival. “Despite his vast experience with world-renowned music festivals and orchestras, he proudly exclaimed to his wife, 'We're going to Tongyeong!' like a child and said that ‘I only need to be alive at that time.’”

“He was like the father of music to me. About 20 years ago, he conducted my work in a premier performance and he was a really warm person,” she added.

Composer Chin Unsuk, the artistic director of the Tongyeong International Festival, speaks during a press conference on Friday at Tongyeong Concert Hall. (TIMF)

Among the three French artists-in-residence, the first up was violist Antoine Tamestit, who performed Berlioz’s "Harold en Italie for Viola and Orchestra" with the Tongyeong Festival Orchestra led by conductor Stanislav Kochanovsky at the festival's opening concert.

Tamestit performed the French composer’s 1834 work, walking around the stage and mesmerizing the audience.

Chin said the festival will offer a mix of classical and contemporary music and more.

Chin said she’s personally excited about the pansori “Jeokbyeokga.” “Jeokbyeokga,” one of the five main stories of pansori, or narrative singing, was performed by pansori master Kim Il-koo on Saturday.

The festival also offers the world premiere of “Thread” by Simon James Philips, commissioned by the Tongyeong International Music Foundation. It is a unique performance where the double bass interacts in real-time with a three-dimensional visual presentation.

Nahre Sol, a Korean American composer, pianist and a YouTuber, will offer a unique performance of her original piano compositions, improvisations and lectures Saturday and Sunday.

“Fringe” has been brought back to the festival after a pandemic-induced four-year hiatus in an effort to reach out to the local community. A total of 40 teams selected from 208 applicants are set to perform in three locations in the city on the two weekends during the festival.

The festival will wrap up with a concert by the Tongyeong Festival Orchestra led by Markus Ste on April 7, featuring the Asian premiere of Marc-Andre Dalbavie’s Flute Concerto (2006/2024), Eotvos’ "Speaking Drums" (2012/2013) and Berlioz’s "Symphonie fantastique," Op. 14. Flutist Emmanuel Pahud and percussionist Marianna Bednarsak will join the performances in Marc-Andre Dalbavie’s Flute Concerto and "Speaking Drums," respectively.

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

Chin, who has reached the mid-point of her five-year term, said although classical music is of European origin, she wanted to show that Europe is not the only path (for a festival like TIMF).

“Rather than focusing solely on European music, as Koreans, we should view things from a different perspective and envision a different future. In addition to diversity in music genres, everything is becoming digital nowadays, so I also want to introduce visual and multimedia elements,” Chin said when asked about her plan for the remaining two editions under her leadership.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Yu In-chon visited the festival along with other attractions in the city and vowed to promote the festival and the city.

"The thoughts, words and expressions of many artists participating in the music festival will have influence both domestically and internationally with the authentic sound of music. I hope the Tongyeong International Music Festival will firmly establish itself not only in Korea but also beyond Asia as a global music festival,” Yu said.

Culture Minister Yu In-chon speaks during a reception ahead of the opening concert of the Tongyeong International Music Festival on Friday. (MCST)