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Rattle, Berlin Philharmonic to bring 21st-century dynamic to orchestral music

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 31, 2013 - 19:19

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It has been two years since the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra visited Korea. But classical music fans here cannot get enough of the orchestra dubbed “the most powerful sound in the world.”

On Nov. 11-12, the group led by Sir Simon Rattle will perform at the Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall staging Schumann’s Symphony No. 1; Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1; Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps,” and Boulez’s “Notations Pour Orchestra,” as well as Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7. Celebrated violinist and the orchestra’s concertmaster Daishin Kashimoto will perform as soloist for the Prokofiev piece. 

Sir Simon Rattle will lead the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at Seoul Arts Center on Nov. 11-12. (Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation) Sir Simon Rattle will lead the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at Seoul Arts Center on Nov. 11-12. (Kumho Asiana Cultural Foundation)
The orchestra that has been led in the past by a number of legendary conductors including Ludwig von Brenner, Hans von Bulow, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado is to perform a wide range of classical pieces, ranging from German Romantic to modern French music under the baton of Rattle, who is credited with diversifying the orchestra’s portfolio.

“In the 20th century, the Berlin Philharmonic represented the quintessential German orchestra, being a majestic, stable and precise ensemble. But with Rattle, who was appointed in 2002, it has truly become the orchestra of orchestras as it reaches out to modern and contemporary pieces with a dynamic twist,” said music critic Rhee Young-jin.

Rhee said the program had a rather interesting flow. Schumann’s piece was written after he married his wife Clara in 1840 following a long courtship and reflects the German composer’s happy status. On the contrary, the Prokofiev piece, which is said to have been a bit too advanced for its time, had received a cold shoulder initially. It was only in 1924, a year after its Paris premiere, that the piece began receiving international recognition for the lyrical composition. Boulez’s “Notation,” composed in 1945, shows the early phase of contemporary music, focusing on the reverberation of sounds.

But what has music fans most excited is “Le Sacre du Printemps” by Stravinsky, which caused a stir when it premiered in 1913, causing several audience members to walk out of the concert hall in the middle of the performance.

“The piece, which was once considered rebellious, has become a classic now,” Rhee said.

“And there’s no one who can carry it better than Rattle. He knows how to pull off the intense, fierce, rhythmical and raw nature of the tune,” he said.

The Berlin Philharmonic established the Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall in 2009 (www.digitalconcerthall.com), where people can watch live streams of the orchestra performances. More than 1.5 million people from some 100 countries have visited the site, the BPO said. This year’s Asian tour program will also be available online soon but the Seoul concert will be not be included.

“One great thing that makes BPO stand out in the classical music circle is that it always tries to keep up with the new generation while many concert halls are filled with elderly people only. The online distribution of the performance epitomizes the effort,” Rhee said. “When you enter the concert hall, forget about all the things you’ve heard before. Just sit back and relax and let your body embrace the music,” he added.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)