Myung-Whun Chung is one of the leading conductors of his generation. Also a prize-winning pianist, he is particularly noted for his interpretations of the music of French composer Olivier Messiaen.
There has rarely been as talented a group of siblings as Myung-Whun and his two older sisters, cellist Myung-Wha Chung (born 1944) and violinist Kyung-Wha Chung (born 1948). Myung-Whun made his performing debut as a pianist in Seoul at the age of 7. At 8, he flew to Seattle, WA, to begin his American musical studies. He attended the Mannes School, and later the Juilliard School in New York. His teachers there were Nadia Reisenberg (piano) and Carl Bramburger (conducting).
Chung won The New York Times piano competition in 1970. He made a conducting debut back in Seoul in 1971, conducting the Korean Symphony Orchestra. In 1974, he entered the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow as a pianist, winning second prize. He continued conducting studies at Juilliard, conducting both the New York Youth Orchestra and the Pre-College Orchestra of the Juilliard School. Carlo Maria Giulini, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, engaged Chung as his assistant in 1978. Two years later on Giulini's recommendation, the Orchestra named Chung its associate conductor. In 1984, Chung became music director and principal conductor of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra in Germany. He made his triumphant New York debut in 1986 conducting the Metropolitan Opera's production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. Later in 1986, he also delivered a brilliant performance in Paris of Prokofiev's rarely heard opera The Fiery Angel. In 1987, he was appointed principal guest conductor of the Teatro Communale of Florence, Italy (1987-1992). He received two major Italian awards during this period, the Premio Abbiata and the 1989 Arturo Toscanini Prize. In 1989 Chung became music director of the Opéra-Paris-Bastille. His performances included Messiaen's Saint-François d'Assise and Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District. He became noted for his renditions of the complex music of Messiaen. The composer rewarded Chung by dedicating to him his last work, the Concert à Quatre and entrusting him with its world premiere (1994). In 1992, the French government awarded him the Legion of Honor for his contributions to the Paris Opera. This did not prevent an angry parting resulting from a change of administration at the French Ministry of Culture in 1994. He has frequently guest conducted in such venues as La Scala Milan, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and the leading international orchestras. After leaving the Bastille Opera post he has been principal conductor of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the Asia Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the early '80s he began work to present "environmental concerts" to allow the audience to accept environmental problems "with their hearts." He seeks a closer relationship between the two parts of his divided country, and has premiered the music of Isang Yun, a South Korean-born composer with similar views. Chung held concerts to raise money for rice to be shipped to famine-stricken North Korea. When he won the Ho-Am Prize from the Samsung Group (worth $111,000), he donated it all to the Korean Red Cross to alleviate the starvation in North Korea.
He also promotes an anti-drug message in his concerts, leading him in 1992 to be named Ambassador of the Drug Control Program at the United Nations. He was 1995's UNESCO "Man of the Year" and in 1996 won the highest cultural award of the Korean government. He returned to Korea to become music director of the Korean Broadcasting Symphony, and is the first Honorary Cultural Ambassador for Korea.
Beethoven Symphony No 9 D minor Myung-Whun Chung Radio France Philarmonic
Interview with Myung-Whun Chung
Dies Irae & Tuba Mirum (Verdi)
Deutsche Grammophon presents the second Beethoven recording from the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and Myung-Whun Chung, Beethoven: Symphony No. 9, the live recording from the 2012 sold-out concert in Seoul. One of the most popular works in the repertoire, this is the live recording from the completely sold out concert in 2012 in Seoul (with a scream of Bravo at the end). The soloists for the 4th movement are soprano Kathleen Kim, who made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 2007 and regularly performs across the US and Europe; mezzo-soprano Songmi Yang, who received excellent reviews on her Wiener Staatsoper debut in Lucia di Lammermoor; tenor Yosep Kang, currently a soloist at the Deutsche Oper Berlin; and bass-baritone Samuel Youn, the first-ever Korean/Asian to successfully star as title role on Der fliegende Holländer in Bayreuth in 2012.
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The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2011 to release 10 albums over five years, making it the first time that an Asian orchestra has signed such an extensive contract. Following the critically acclaimed Mahler Ninth from last year, this new album (recorded live in 2014) is the fourth Mahler recording by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra with maestro Myung-Whun Chung.
The Mahler: Symphony No 5 in C-sharp minor: III, Scherzo (17:34) on Deutsche Grammophon by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra led by Myung-Whun Chung is a WFMT: Chicago - New Release Of the Week.
It's not often that a western-style concerto for a non-western instrument works as well as Su, written by the South Korean composer Unsuk Chinfor the Chinese sheng player Wu Wei. This was the highlight of the?Seoul Philharmonic's debut Prom, under Myung-Whun Chung.
The sheng is a kind of ancient Chinese mouth-organ. Visually, it's a foot-high nest of upward-striving tubes. Imagine someone tore off a corner off the Sagrada Familia and stuck in a mouthpiece. It sounds like a harmonica but also, when played with Wu's virtuosity, like almost any other instrument too. It emerges seamlessly from the violins, traces long arcs of reedy breath like a clarinet, tremolos like a mandolin, or makes sudden, percussive mini-explosions. In Chin's concerto, which holds the serious and the playful in fabulous balance, we can barely tell where the sheng stops and the orchestra begins. The music hangs in the air, or dances in a frenzy, but all the time it seems the other instruments are tracing the aura the sheng leaves in its wake.
READ THE FULL Guardian REVIEW HERE
Each week KDFC - San Francisco members can download a free mp3 from some of the biggest releases in the world of Classical music. Recorded at Venice's Teatro La Fenice, in July 2013, the album marks the first occasion that Chung has recorded solo. In a performer's note, he describes the album as a gift for younger listeners, as well as a personal thanks to those who share his love of this music. Chung's touch and sensitivity for dynamics cast a new light on familiar pieces – by Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Schumann and Mozart – as they are experienced in a gently flowing sequence which also serves to highlight affinities between the compositions.
Download a free mp3 of Myung Whun Chung performing Schubert's Impromptu In E Flat
The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1948, is one of the oldest orchestras in South Korea. Myung-Whun Chung was appointed as music director in 2005, and the following year he led the orchestra in performances of the complete symphonies of Beethoven. The SPO signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2011 to release 10 albums over five years, making it the first time that an Asian orchestra has signed such an extensive contract. This recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is taken from a concert performance in December 2012 at the orchestra's home, the Seoul Arts Center. Myung-Whun Chung's Deutsche Grammophon recording Beethoven: Symphony No 9 Scherzo featuring the The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra is WFMT 'New Release Of the Week'
The ECM New Series debut of Myung-Whun Chung features the widely-celebrated conductor as pianist. Recorded at Venice's Teatro La Fenice in July 2013, the album marks the first occasion that Chung has recorded solo. Although conducting now fully occupies his professional life, Chung (born 1953 in Seoul) made his debut as pianist with the Seoul Philharmonic at the age of seven. He later studied with Maria Curcio, the last and favorite pupil of Artur Schnabel. In 1974, Chung was a prize winner in the Tchaikovsky Competition. He then began his career playing piano trios with his sisters, Kyung-Wha Chung and Myung-Wha Chung. The Schumann: Arabeske and Schubert: Impromptu in G-flat major from the Myung-Whun Chung: Piano Encores on ECM is a WFMT - Chicago / New Release Of the Week.'
Spring is the time for year-end piano recitals, for piano teachers and students to show off their stuff as the school year ends. If you are looking for something to give a young piano student -– or, for that matter, even an older piano student -– The Ear can't think of a better gift than a new album from ECM Records, Piano.
It is the debut recital of solo piano works by the prize-winning Korean conductor and pianist Myung Whun Chung, whose fabulously musical family includes a famous violinist sister and a cellist brother with whom he recorded many famous trios by Antonin Dvorak, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn and others.
The CD features great sonic engineering. The piano sound is clear and upfront, not overly resonant and not percussive. The treble and bass are well-balanced. And the playing seems relaxed and natural, never tense or forced, whimsical or neurotic.
The album contains a variety of 10 pieces for different levels of playing, though most are for advanced beginners or intermediate students. As Chung explains at the bottom in a YouTube video, he made this album not for pianists, but for young people. We need more of that kind of caring and music education. READ THE FULL Well-Tempered Ear REVIEW.
The celebrated conductor returns to his roots as a pianist with music especially for younger listeners, including works by Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin, and more.
His performances are cited most often with the title "conductor" preceding his name. Sometimes, it's "Music Director." Myung Whun Chung's recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bastille Opera Orchestra, and other great ensembles are examples of the highest standards of interpretation and performance.
He became the conductor of choice for the Twentieth Century composer Olivier Messiaen, who wrote some of the most exotic, complex, and demanding music of his generation.
Myung Whun Chung has been a conductor for so much of his career that his earlier achievements as a solo pianist (including a Second Prize at the 1974 Tchaikovsky Competition) have been only echoed in recent years by several recordings as a chamber musician. It's understandable enough. Chung made a decision many years ago to make conducting his focus, even while maintaining his love of the piano.
The results of that decision speak for themselves. In one of many examples, his recording of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony with the Bastille Opera Orchestra still ranks among the very best of that work.
Now Chung has released a recording that he calls a gift for young people. Leaving behind the ferocious complexity of Messiaen, he's chosen to focus on works that speak simply and directly to the emotional core of what it means to be human, a realm understood intuitively by children, perhaps more easily than adults.
The selections include, among others
Debussy's Clair de Lune,
Beethoven's Für Elise,
Tchaikovsky's Autumn Song, and
It's a collection that, in the words of Michael Tumelty of the Herald of Scotland, "demonstrates a pristine, lucid and light keyboard lyricism."
Tune in to 99.5 WCRB - Boston all week to hear Myung Whun Chung's "Piano."
Tune in throughout the week for tracks from KDFC - San Francisco CD of the Week. This week we feature a very personal solo piano recording on ECM from the renowned Korean-born conductor, Myung Whun Chung. Although 'Piano' was Maestro Chung's first instrument, he no longer considers himself a "real" pianist. He was persuaded to make this recording by his son (who works for the label) "as a gift for his grandkids." The program includes familiar works by Debussy, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, and Mozart and was made at the historic La Fenice Theater in Venice.
Myung Whun Chung, Piano: works of Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Schumann and Mozart performed by Myung Whun Chung (ECM). If one were to just look at the repertoire of this disc, you'd be likely to think that surely this is one way of compiling a Greatest Hits of Classical Piano – Beethoven's "Fur Elise," Debussy's "Claire De Lune," Schumann's "Arabeske," Mozart's "Variations on ‘Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman" (otherwise known as "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star") etc. Something a good deal more personal seems to be going on here. This is the first solo piano recording of the 50-year-old Korean musician best known as a conductor of opera and compositions by Olivier Messiaen (for whom he was the composer's chosen conductor. He recently conducted Messiaen's massive "Turangalila" Symphony.) The repertoire chosen here is completely personal, he tells us – "Claire de Lune" a gift "for my second granddaughter whose name is Lua (moon), The Schubert ‘Impromptu' in G-Flat major I played for my first son's marriage … (Tchaikovsky's) ‘Autumn Song is one of the works that I played at the Tchaikovsky competition in 1974." The playing, then, of these, some of the most familiar pieces in the entire world of classical piano, is beyond charming and, indeed, imbued with personal conviction so rare as to be almost singular.