Music to bridge cultures

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Music to bridge cultures

Music to bridge cultures

Conductor Myung-whun Chung (top) and sheng soloist Wu Wei (above) cooperate to perform the Chinese premiere of composer Unsuk Chin's concerto, Su, in Beijing.

Seoul and Beijing celebrate 20 years as sister cities with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra performing a piece written for a traditional Chinese instrument, sheng.

A concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of ties between Beijing and Seoul, saw the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, under conductor Myung-whun Chung, performing composer Unsuk Chin's concerto, Su, at the National Center for the Performing Arts. The piece was initially written for the traditional Chinese instrument sheng.

Verdi's La forza del destino Overture and Beethoven's Symphony No 5 were also performed at the concert titled, Gift From Seoul to Beijing.

Performed by Wu Wei, the world's leading avant-garde sheng soloist who is based in Berlin, the concerto is very meaningful to the composer.

"I've always wanted the concerto to be performed in China," says Chin in Beijing. "There are not many Western classical works written for an Eastern instrument. It certainly helps the soloist to perform the instrument on an international stage."

Chin and Wu met in Berlin six years ago at a mutual friend's wedding. Wu played the sheng at the wedding, which impressed Chin. Since then the two have wanted to work together.

"Sheng is a very interesting instrument, which can fully express my musical ideas," says Chin.

The Berlin-based composer is best known for her award-winning Violin Concerto, in 2002, and her first opera Alice in Wonderland in 2007.

Five years ago, she was invited by Chung to be the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra's composer-in-residence. In 2014, the two will release a new album including the concerto for sheng, a mouth-blown free-reed instrument consisting of vertical pipes.

"Music is a bridge between different cultures. There's only one goal for a musician - convey the greatness of music to the audience," says 60-year-old Chung, who is also a pianist.

Chung initially shot to international fame in 1974 when he won second place at the International Tchaikovsky Competition.

"I'm a one-track man and I just focus on music. All cultures are beautiful and interesting. This music has existed for hundreds of years and is still evolving," he says.

Chung has been the art director and principal conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra since 2005, and says he has seen great progress from the orchestra and increased awareness from audiences.

"The starting point and the end point are the same - the quality of music," says the conductor.

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