On the day after Music@Menlo’s final concert, David and Wu Han boarded a flight to Seoul to begin teaching and performing in the inaugural LG/Lincoln Center Chamber Music Festival. Nineteen string and piano students had worked on chamber works since the first week of April, on the weekends, with Korean faculty, in preparation for the festival. Beginning on Tuesday in Seoul, the faculty taught for three days at the Yewon School of the arts, which provided classrooms for rehearsals and teaching.
in David’s words…
Yewon School of Arts hosted the festival, providing classrooms for rehearsals and teaching. Students had four sessions per day with us and violinist Ian Swensen, who journeyed direct from concerts and teaching in Toronto.
The ever-youthful, demonstrative Ian was immediately loved by the students and interacted with them on a very personal level.
Only a few of the students knew some English, so translators were always present. The level of preparation was very good, but there was definitely room for improvement in the essential areas of fingering, bowing and dynamic markings. As usual, we demanded fidelity to the scores, as we worked intensively on works of Beethoven, Mozart, Dvorak and Mendelssohn.
The hyper-conscientious Korean students tended to over-mark their music, as you can see. After an emergency run by the staff for pencils and erasers, we helped the young players clean up their parts, leaving the essentials more obvious.
On Thursday the entire festival moved to the beautiful countryside Konjiam resort for concerts and festivities. Owned by the LG Corporation, it is nestled in the mountains and is primarily a winter ski resort. Teaching continued there as we prepared for our concert on Friday.
One of the resort’s large conference rooms served as a concert hall, and Wu Han and festival administrator Jeehyun Kim addressed the crowd before we began. The concert consisted of Beethoven’s Piano Trio Op. 1 No. 1, the Shostakovich Cello Sonata, and the Smetana Trio.
After the concert we were hosted by LG executives Paul Chung and Hank Lee (pictured here with me the morning after) for a delicious Korean meal accompanied by fine California wines (a rarity in Korea – there supposedly not even dedicated wine shops here as people mostly drink beer or shoju, the Korean wine). Both Paul and Hank were enormously enthusiastic about the concert and reportedly celebrated into the wee hours.
The following day we coached the students through their dress rehearsal run through, which included essential lessons on how to bow, what to do with the music, entering and leaving the stage, and looking unafraid. Wu Han also administered an intense pep talk right before the concert began. The kids were a bit shocked by it all but the hard work paid off in the concert, which took place at 4pm. All the groups played their best and we were immensely proud of them.
After a day off (during which we toured a historic Korean village) we concluded our residency with individual master classes on each of our instruments. Wu Han worked with the three pianists, I with the six cellists, and Ian with many violinists and violists, for much of it without translators, since they had all left. We did the best we could. There are some talented cellists here whom I hope to see in the States someday soon.
With the last master classes completed on Monday morning, our obligations for this year were over. Journeying back to Seoul by bus, Jeehyun Kim listened to our extensive observations on the very successful first year, and we gave her quite a bit of input and advice on procedure. LG is committed to the program for several years, and we hope to return next year to continue the good work we began with so many deserving young musicians.