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Chung Myung-whun named honorary conductor of KBS Orchestra

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Conductor Chung Myung-whun, left, receives an appointment letter naming him as honorary conductor from Nam Chul-woo, acting president and CEO of the KBS Symphony Orchestra, at the orchestra's headquarters in Seoul, Thursday. Courtesy of KBS Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Chung Myung-whun, left, receives an appointment letter naming him as honorary conductor from Nam Chul-woo, acting president and CEO of the KBS Symphony Orchestra, at the orchestra's headquarters in Seoul, Thursday. Courtesy of KBS Philharmonic Orchestra

By Park Ji-won

Conductor Chung Myung-whun was appointed as honorary conductor, or conductor laureate, of the KBS Symphony Orchestra, according to the orchestra.

"He will be conducting the KBS Symphony Orchestra one or two times a year in the future," the orchestra said. "He is also planning to join the projects for developing talented musicians to foster peace between the two Koreas and raise the status of classical music as performed by Korean musicians."

An official of the orchestra said, "He was awarded the position because he served as a musical director of the orchestra in the past and has conducted the orchestra several times recently. It is an honorary position ― volunteer work. So he will not be paid for any of his services." The orchestra said Chung's term length has not been decided.

The announcement came after Chung conducted the orchestra's Christmas Eve concert on behalf of Pietari Inkinen, the orchestra's newly appointed music director who was unable to enter the country due to toughened self-quarantine rules amid the spike in COVID-19 cases here. Chung also conducted the orchestra in December 2020 and August 2021.

Chung took the helm of the orchestra in January 1998 as music director. But he quit the position about four months later amid a dispute with the company. It took two decades to mend their relationship, and in August 2018 Chung led the orchestra once again with pianist Garrick Ohlsson for a concert.

The 68-year-old was also considered as a candidate to replace Yoel Levi as the orchestra's musical director, Chung made it clear but during a press conference last April that he is no longer interested in holding a position with heavy responsibilities.

He debuted as a pianist, but he also studied conducting at the Mannes College of Music and the Juilliard School. The maestro has led prestigious orchestras in the United States and Europe as well as in Korea.

He served as chief conductor of the Saarland Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1984 to 1990. He was principal guest conductor of the Teatro Comunale, Florence, from 1987 to 1992. He has conducted virtually all the prominent European and American orchestras and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1986 with Simon Boccanegra. From 1989 to 1994, Chung served as the music director of the Paris Opera.

From 2000 to 2015, he served as the music director of the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, while from 2001 to 2010 serving as special artistic adviser and honorary conductor laureate from 2010 to 2016 for Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. From 2006 to 2015, he was music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.

Chung released "Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms: Late Piano Works" on Deutsche Grammophon last April and held recitals while conducting orchestras such as Staatskapelle Dresden in Europe.


Park Ji-won jwpark@koreatimes.co.kr


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