Feature "The energy of Massimo Zanetti is shining. Especially when he’s talking about the Gyeonggi Phil     -  of whom he has been Music Director since September 2018-  his eyes light up." Park ChanmiAuditorium Magazine

Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra & Music Director  Massimo Zanetti


The energy of Massimo Zanetti is shining. Especially when he’s talking about the Gyeonggi Phil       of whom he has been Music Director since September 2018-  his eyes light up.

Last year  Zanetti made his first appearance at the Seoul Arts Center  Orchestra Festival with his orchestra and he will step again on this year’s Festival stage: the expectations for his concert are really high.
To celebrate the 250th Anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, he decided to play the Violin Concerto (soloist Choi Ye-Eun ), as a kind of “birthday cake”. The music of Mendelssohn, who admired and respected Beethoven during his lifetime, will radiate his positive energy in the second part of the program, with his Symphony Nr 4 “Italian”.

You arrived to Korea at the end of June: how have you been during self-isolation?

It took great patience to stay in the house because my health was – luckly !-  really good. But I could get over it pretty smoothly thanks to the help of the GPhil Team, the Korean Doctors who followed my quarantine and all the people who helped me to keep going in this situation.

During this time I kept busy by studying, reading, making conference calls with the orchestra and GAC Management; we are of course trying to plan in the best possible way for the future Seasons.

It has been a long time since you’ve played with the GPO.

I did the last performance with my orchestra in December 2019 ( Beethoven 9th ).

I came to Korea on February 23rd in order to prepare and perform four  concerts ( with 3 different programs ) that were scheduled between the end of February and the first week of March..

Unfortunately, just 4 hours after my arrival in Seoul, the Alert Level was raised to a higher level because of the Corona 19. As a consequence, all the events were immediately cancelled and I had no choice but to return to Italy on the 25th.

I practically didn’t play with the orchestra for 7 months and I was worried  that such a long gap could have jeopardized all the work that we had previously done.

During these long months, there was no one day in which I didn’t think about the Gyeonngi Phil.

Breaking the long hiatus, last month you performed Mozart Piano Concerto Nr 27  (with Lee Jin-sang) and Beethoven String Quartet op.135 (orchestra version).
It must have been something you were waiting for a long time, how was it?

Well…I realized that all my worries were simply wrong! After the first moments, which we needed to  resettle, we started to enjoy and I immediately felt so happy again. It seemed that the orchestra members had also been waiting for this moment, to share all what we were used to, and they gave me everything they had.

I was relieved that I finally returned to my normal life and the relationship with the orchestra appeared to be the same.

I can feel the deep affection you have for the Gyeonggi Phil.  What is its charm?

It is an orchestra with an enormous flexibility. From the moment I begun my mandate as Music Director until the moment we were forced to stop because of the Pandemic, we worked together for 15 months.  During that time, we performed Brahms Symphony Nos. 1,2,3, as well as the Piano Concerto No. 2, the Violin Concerto and  the Double Concerto;  Beethoven Symphony Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9; Mahler Symphony Nr 4 and several works from R. Strauss , S.Prokofiev, O.Respighi, C.Debussy, M.Ravel and W.A.Mozart: indeed an impressive amount of different music in just 15 months!  All of this would not have been possible without the immensely flexible attitude showed by the orchestra.

What does the Gyeonggi Phil means for the Gyeonggi-do Province? 

Gyeonggi-do people’s interest in the Gyeonggi Phil has increased tremendously, the GAC- Grand Hall was sold out for several concerts during the last Season.  After the performances, people are usually waiting in long lines for our “meet and greet” events.  There are so many students who bring their music scores with them; some people like to ask me questions about the music they just heard, other ones like to show me the passages they enjoyed the most. This attitude motivates me so much!

Among the initiatives that the GPhil takes part in, I would like to mention one that was lately done by  the deputy conductor Chung Narah, who has visited an Hospital in Gyeonggi-do to hold a matinee concert with the orchestra. It is a place where positive power of hope and comfort is essential. I would so much like to take part in this kind of events in the near future.

Last year you’ve participated in the Orchestra Festival with the Gyeonggi Phil for the first time.  What memories remain?

 I knew that the Orchestra Festival was one of the main musical initiative in Seoul but I was indeed very surprised by the great interest that it creates and the huge expectations from the Audience. Although the Festival in itself is not a competition, it naturally creates a “challenging atmosphere” due to the participation of various orchestras.

Moreover, as the performance is broadcasted live on the Radio Station, the reviews and commentaries are immediately posted on social media. And therefore I felt an added responsibility because of it!.. (laughter).

It was a great experience and I am very much looking forward to do it again. I was of course really sad when, in April, I heard that the Festival was being cancelled – as it should have been due to the pandemic – . But I would like to express my highest respect and appreciation to the Festival Organization, who still succeeded to make it happen now in August.

How is the preparation for the festival going? 

Originally we planned to play Debussy’s symphonic poem “ La mer”, which is of course a huge size orchestra piece; following the Covid-19  Health regulations, the orchestra size had to be limited.

My original plan was to play again French music like last year but most of the symphonic works, such as in Ravel and Debussy, are conceived for large scale and therefore I had to completely change the concept. At this point Mendelssohn came to my mind, also because it is not that much played in Korea, and I thought that the Symphony nr 4 “ Italian” was the right choice. It is a work that conveys light and a positive energetic feeling: all of this is much needed right now.

In particular, why did you feel attached to French works?

At last year’s Orchestra Festival, we performed Debussy’s’ Prelude a l’apres-midì d’un faune” and Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnol’. So far, the Gyeonggi Phil hasn’t played so much French music and it was a very challenging proposition. They answered to it in the best possible way. The audience reaction was incredible, both right after the last note we played – lively cheering! – and in the comments in the following days. That convinced me to proceed in this way and to go deeply exploring this repertoire.

Choi Ye-eun celebrates the Beethoven’s Anniversary Year by performing his Violin Concerto.

Beethoven and Mendelssohn: no question it is a good combination. Mendelssohn worked for a publishing house when he was young, and apparently  he was in charge of copying and editing the last pieces Beethoven had composed in his lifetime, like the Strings Quartet. We know that Mendelssohn respected and admired  him very much. The violin concerto was “warmly” proposed by Ye-Eun and I liked a lot her tone of conviction.

The term of your Music Director mandate with the Gyeonggi Phil is until August 2022.  Is there any project you want to proceed with in the remaining time?

First of all, I would like to complete the path we started by playing practically all Brahms’ symphonic works– only the Symphony Nr 4 and the Piano Concerto Nr 1 are left – and Beethoven’s ones – Symphony Nr 1,2,4,7 and 8 remain to be played -, which we couldn’t achieve due to the Corona Crisis.

My great dream remains to be able to perform the entire Beethoven Symphonies Cycle in one week, something that hasn’t been done yet by a Korean Orchestra. We are also currently working on some opera projects, but the details are still a secret! ( laughter ).

And I really would like to propose all the masterpieces that were cancelled this year, like the Mahler Symphony No. 3 with the wonderful Marina Prudenskaya.

Written by Park Chanmi