The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center visited Seoul, Korea for a week of performances and teaching as part of its ongoing partnership with the LG Chamber Music School. Steven Tenenbom, Philip Setzer, Wu Han, Arnold Steinhardt and David Finckel prepared student ensembles for their year-end concert, and performed before a packed house at the LG Arts Center concert hall. For work on artistic partnership projects between LG and the Chamber Music Society, CMS Director of Artistic Programs Michael Lawrence accompanied the musicians for the entire visit.
in David’s words…
Only a few days off the Corinthian II in Istanbul, we boarded a flight from JFK to Seoul for CMS’s third trip to teach in the LG corporation’s innovative Chamber Music School, which provides free instrumental instruction and chamber coachings to deserving young Korean musicians on a year-round basis.
Just before getting off the plane, Wu Han wiped out all competition on the video game “Bejeweled” (Guest scores).
Since the advent of our collaboration, the program has grown steadily in quantity and quality. In addition, various divisions of LG have also become involved: LG U+, which runs LG’s mobile phone, IPTV, and cable service among others; and Dacom, which is the sister company for LG U+ and produces all of their content. The relationship between LG and CMS has deepened and broadened, as we have found many projects of mutual interest and benefit.
The young musicians of Korea are tremendously exciting to teach. They possess the signature Asian work ethic and are, at the same time, mostly gregarious and outgoing, which equips them both with the discipline needed to master instrumental and musical challenges, and to communicate their joy of making music across the footlights.
Some of the students with whom we worked have been in the program for three years, the maximum duration, which by coincidence is the same length of time for our CMS Two program residencies. Those who were the most experienced not only brought so much more to their own performances, but have undeniably guided and helped their younger colleagues into the wonderful world of chamber music.
As our faculty assembled in the lobby of our favorite hotel in Seoul, the Fraser Suites in the Insadong district, we had the pleasure of introducing them to the dynamic Jeehyun Kim. Jeehyun is the strategic connector between CMS and LG, and her company, Casual Classic, designs social responsibility programs for major corporations such as LG and SK Telecomm. Jeehyun is also the founder and executive director of Chamber Music Today, a new annual chamber music festival taking place in Korea which debuts in December, the first to introduce and present, on a regular basis, world-class chamber ensembles in Korea.
Upon our arrival at the Yewon Art School, we were greeted by HS Ad director David Shin (HS Ad is advertisement company owned by LG) and led to one of the large rehearsal studios for our first meeting with the eager students.
The Yewon School has educated many now-prominent performers, and also teaches other arts such as traditional dance, painting and sculpture, much of which was on display.
As we began our first coachings that afternoon, Wu Han and I both realized that the level of understanding of chamber music had come miles since we first encountered many of these students. Very little had to be explained to them about the nature of what they were doing. Not only did they all “get it” from the beginning, some of even the youngest ones seemed to have chamber music running in their veins. One twelve-year-old pianist, already playing both the Dvorak Quintet and Beethoven’s Ghost trio, already seemed an expert collaborator.
Each of us threw ourselves into the process with all we could muster.
At noon on Friday we were treated to a reception by Dacom in a spacious room atop the Plaza Hotel. The event was designed to promote the long-distance learning project in which Dacom is partnering with CMS, and was hosted by, left to right, Dacom President Mr. Junwon Yun, Vice President Mr. Sun Kyu Chun, and Manager at LG U+, Mr. Sunho Park.
A large crowd consisting of student parents, staff, and professional musicians and teachers from Korea attended, including piano professor Daewook Lee of Hanyang University and pianist Aviram Reichart of the Seoul National University.
Dacom’s long-distance teaching collaboration with CMS was explained and illustrated with excerpts of educational events already filmed by CMS in New York in March. Dacom General Manager Yunbae Jung detailed the program, and Wu Han offered our perspectives and many thanks for the company’s dedication and generosity.
Long days of teaching and rehearsing were always rewarded by marvelous parties, great food, and making new friends. On Saturday evening we were hosted by Junwon Yun, President of Dacom, in a traditional Korean restaurant, giving us an opportunity to exchange ideas with the leadership of this very vital component of LG which has opened the door to an unprecedented educational opportunity.
On Sunday morning we journeyed across Seoul to Olympus Hall for our students’ dress rehearsal and performance. Our faculty seemed a bit shocked as Wu Han and I attacked the young performers’ stage deportment, making them enter, re-enter, bow and exit the stage until they came across as professionals. In addition, at Jeehyun’s suggestion, the young musicians briefly explained the music to the audience before each piece (Jeehyun had visited Music@Menlo this past summer and witnessed our Chamber Music Institute in action).
After an introductory speech by Wu Han, assisted in translating by violist Sang Jin Kim, the concert began and went very smoothly in all respects. The students performed their best, and were rewarded with enthusiastic applause and cheering from parents, faculty and LG executives, including LG President and Chief Operating Officer Juno Cho, who sat next to me on the edge of his chair, conducting much of the music discreetly with his hands.
The concert concluded with a surprise performance of the “LG Song” by the students, including an ensemble on stage and legions of string players in the balconies.
The festive post-concert lobby scene included innumerable poses for the cameras of students and parents alike, not to mention my own.
After much picture-taking, we were hosted for a Korean barbecue dinner by Juno Cho and Vice President Paul Chung. Attending were Wu Han’s sister Evelyne, her daughter Elizabeth and husband Eric Tang, who presented as gifts to the astonished LG executives rare wines from his personal collection. Mr. Cho’s daughter Yoojin, herself a gifted violinist and a student of Ian Swensen at San Francisco Conservatory, helped unveil the treasured bottles.
Also dining in neighboring rooms were the hard-working staff members of Jeehyun’s company: Julie Huh, Andrea Kim, Katie Lee, and Hongsik Jung.
Monday brought a day of rest for Philip Setzer and Steven Tenenbom, but for me, Wu Han and Arnold Steinhardt, it was a day of challenge which helped grow the roots of our education project both deeper and broader.
While Wu Han I worked with the very accomplished pianist and cellist Yekwon Sunwoo and Taykuk Moon on the Beethoven A major sonata, hearing first a complete performance and then offering our ideas. As they played, we marked our score with Post-Its detailing our numerous suggestions, much to their subsequent amazement.
Arnold sat on a stool and talked to the cameras for two straight hours about violin playing, practicing, rehearsing and other aspects of life in music. We can’t wait to watch what I’m certain will become a definitive educational video and a testament to Arnold’s extraordinary legacy as a consummate musician, thoughtful and generous educator, and incomparable violinist. He also coached Yekwon and LG Chamber Music School graduate Erica (Keunwha) Lee in Beethoven’s sonata in G major, Op. 30
I also used the opportunity to knock off a couple more Cello Talks, these talks designed especially for the LG U+ project and drawn from the more extensive Cello Talks web site. The exhausting day was concluded with yet another wonderful meal and story-telling late into the night.
The excellent cellist Na-Young Baek served as my translator for all my classes during the week. Her presence, as an expert musician and attentive colleague, made my many suggestions and ideas intelligible for the students. Doubtless I am sometimes a little hard to translate!
Tuesday morning gave us the opportunity to rehearse for our own concert one more time. Phil, Arnold and Steve gathered around the piano in our suite for a run-through of the Dvorak Terzetto.
The evening concert was in the acoustically-excellent LG Arts Center Hall, a large venue that presents a huge variety of world-class and cutting edge productions of a wide range of music, theater and dance.
The concert was sold out long in advance, and we were gratified to learn that complimentary tickets were given to local youth orchestras and of course to all our students at the Chamber Music School.
Our program turned out not to be quite what we expected, as we were greeted on arrival with a large poster announcing our performance of Beethoven’s sonata no. 2 in g minor as opposed to no. 3 in A major. After confirming that the programs had been printed that way as well, and that in fact we were in error, we found it fitting that we should change our plans and play the program as printed, something not out of the question for us having played the complete cycle many times in the last two seasons.
The program concluded with the Dvorak Quintet, which was a real joy to play with these distinguished colleagues.
The lobby scene was much the same as after the Emerson Quartet’s concert at LG Arts Center last year: many, many seeking autographs and photos, but this time, an astounding number of very young listeners. We all agreed: none of us has ever played for an audience so largely youthful.
A concluding dinner, with magnificent state-of-the-art beef barbecue, was graciously hosted by LG U+ Vice President and CFO Sunghyun Kim. Mr. Kim is deeply into music, knowing a huge amount of repertoire (he whistled the opening of the Shostakovich cello sonata for us) and making astute comments on specific works such as the Beethoven quartets. It was further revealed to us that these influential and powerful executives also play together in a band – which someday will play for us in a command performance, if I get my way.