North Korean orchestra makes rare Paris visit

Posted on: March 15, 2012

“The Unhasu Orchestra of North Korea, one of the country’s foremost musical institutions, joined the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra on Wednesday night in a concert here at the Salle Pleyel,” writes Sophie Cohen in Wednesday’s (3/14) ArtsBeat blog in the New York Times. “Myung-Whun Chung, the South Korean maestro who conducted the concert, said he had wanted the concert to ‘be presented with no political wrappings: no speeches, no flags flying.’ Mr. Chung, whose mother was born in Wonsan, a port town in what is now North Korea, speaks positively of his time in North Korea last September, recalling with particular fondness a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Mr. Chung was surprised, he said, that the North Korean authorities had allowed the orchestra to play a piece written by a composer known as ‘the musical fighter for human liberty.’ … Since their arrival on Saturday the Unhasu players have visited Versailles and the Louvre, accompanied by their North Korean minders. They leave France on Friday. Mr. Chung, when asked why he had chosen Brahms’s First Symphony and not Beethoven’s Ninth to perform on this occasion, replied, ‘Because the Ninth Symphony I want to do when the two Koreas are together.’ ”

Posted March 15, 2012