This orchestra, the oldest in Korea, was founded in 1948 and has since gone on to be more than just an orchestra in the eyes of the nation. The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has always had a certain mission. In the Korean War, it pacified the hearts of its countrymen through music, and today it serves as one of the nation’s symbols of dynamic development and hopes for the future. In this sense, every year on Korean Liberation Day it gives free concerts which are broadcast throughout the country.
Myung-Whun Chung first performed with the orchestra as a pianist at the age of seven. That was more than fifty years ago. In 2006 he took over as Principal Conductor and immediately began some radical transformations. Under Myung-Whun Chung the ensemble began to appear on a regular basis with European conductors and soloists, including many Russian performers. The makeup of the orchestra has changed significantly: today there are a great many young musicians in the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, including performers from European countries. And there are also a great many women in the orchestra.
Naturally, the musicians’ repertoire includes symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner (no-one has abandoned the mission of introducing Korean audiences to the European classics). But the real hobbyhorse is works from the 20th and even the 21st centuries. The concept of dynamic development and caring about the future demands the repertoire be constantly updated, and so it performs works by composers including Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen, though even this is not enough. In 2006, in line with western practice, the orchestra got its own composer in residence – Unsuk Chin. She trained in Germany and mastered the subtleties of avant-garde and electronic music. Judging by the opera Alice in Wonderland (2007), however, she knows exactly when to renounce these subtleties.
The Violin Concerto is Unsuk Chin’s calling card (a ballet has even been staged to this music in Scandinavia). The concerto was written when the composer was Guest Composer of the German Symphony Orchestra, and it was first performed in 2002 by Viviane Hagner under the baton of Kent Nagano.