Massimo Zanetti before farewell stage “Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ in one word, ‘why?’… Korean performers are excellent”

Feature "Every moment over the past four years has been an episodic memory, and in a word, it was a very grateful time. It’s really sad that I won’t be able to continue working with the orchestra members I had a lot of fun working with due to the close family relationship." Lee Kang-eunSegye Ilbo

Massimo Zanetti (60, Italy) led the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra (Gyeonggi Phil) for the past 4 years. During the press conference the Italian maestro, who was appointed as the chief conductor of Gyeonggi-phil with great anticipation, revealed his feelings ahead of the farewell stage and expressed his special gratitude and regret at the same time.

Zanetti, who took office in September 2018 as Gyeonggi-phil’s first foreign music director, has been re-elected for a two-year term and is evaluated to have raised the orchestra’s performance to the next level. As the last concert before his retirement, he will perform Verdi’s ‘Requiem’ at the Gyeonggi Arts Center Grand Theater on the 23rd and Lotte Concert Hall in Seoul on the 25th.

At a press conference held in Seoul on the 18th, Zanetti answered a question about the changes and achievements of Gyeonggi-phil over the past four years, saying, “Gyeonggi-phil is an orchestra with already excellent skills, including playing twice with (world-class conductor) Riccardo Muti. I was looking forward to it at the time of the contract,” he said. He continued, “I tried and found a lot of transparent and detailed (delicate) ways of playing with Gyeonggi-phil, which had previously felt grand and large. A great achievement,” 

Last year, Gyeonggi-phil prepared the ‘Five for Five’ program with up-and-coming musicians, and for the first time, he performed all Beethoven concertos. He also praised the skills of Korean musicians. “If you look at it now, there are many Koreans among the performers who have reached high positions in major orchestras in Europe. It is a trend that Koreans (musicians) with outstanding capabilities are playing a major role around the world.”

Regarding the feeling of leading Gyeonggi-phil for 4 years, Zanetti said, “When preparing for concerts and rehearsals, both me and the members worked with a sense of responsibility and joy, so there was no musical difficulty at all.” I am also very grateful to the Korean classical audience who supported and responded well to each performance together.” However, he could not fully utilize the four years due to the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), and as the number of performances decreased significantly, he could not play all the symphonies of Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and did not deal with the songs of French composers in depth. He expressed regret about this. It is in the same vein that regret was expressed that the contract extension did not happen this time.

“Working with GPhil was magical and a special experience,” said Zanetti. It would be great if we were given the opportunity to work together again.”

‘Requiem’, which will be the last work of Zanetti with GPhil for a while, is the largest of Verdi’s religious music, and is also called ‘Opera of the Dead’ because of its dramatic elements. The piece was written in 1874 by Verdi to commemorate the deaths of the masters of Romanticism and respected musician Rossini and Manzoni. In particular, ‘Dias Irae’ is a song that is familiar to us through advertisements and movies.

“(Verdi Requiem) was not chosen as the last piece with intention, but it was planned to be played in 2020, but it has been delayed due to the pandemic,” said Zanetti. It is a work that is timely and appropriate in the face of many crises.” He said, “‘Requiem’ is a work about death, and if Brahms, Schumann, Mozart, etc. painted it as a fate that had to accept death (in Requiem), I see Verdi as having to fight the fate of death, like Beethoven.” Verdi Requiem can be abbreviated to one word, ‘Why?’. By asking the question, ‘Why do I have to die and everything has to end?’ I think it has a very human perspective, unlike the existing Requiem.”

About 200 people, including orchestras and choirs, will take to the stage and present rich music such as solo, ensemble, and chorus.