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Dear Massimo Zanetti,
Hello. This is So-Yeun Jung. I am an editor of Strad Korea. And I am a big fan of you as a listener. I have the honor to interview you. I hope to you enjoyable my question. The honor is all mine, Dear Miss Jung. Besides the fact that your Magazine is among the most important in the cultural scene, you have a great reputation as one of the most important Editors in the Korean music scene. I am really happy to finally meet you.
1.When you plan a concert, I think you have a clear purpose for the development of the orchestra. You and the Orchestra will play Schumann Symphonies (No.3 & No.4). What is the purpose of this project?
You are absolutely right. In the past three years I have always tried to promote a path with the GPO that would make us grow and mature. This explains the near completion of all Beethoven’s and Brahms’ Symphonies and Concerts – which only the issues due to the terrible pandemic prevented us from completing -, or even the last concerts that we have entirely dedicated to Stravinsky. It was necessary to try to measure ourselves with the Schumannian Symphonies, which are very difficult to perform and are only possible with top orchestras. When I proposed to tackle the Schumann Cycle, I was told that this composer is not so often represented in Korea and consequently is not as well known to the general public.
The First and Second Symphony we performed last July had a truly extraordinary, almost unexpected, response. In September 2021 we had planned the completion of the Cycle with the Third and Fourth Symphonies: the tickets for the two concerts sold out immediately. Unfortunately we had to cancel those concerts due to the fact I couldn’t do the quarantine this time. But I am very happy to be able to recuperate them now and I really hope that all our audience will come back to fill the Halls and make us feel all their precious support.
2. Please tell me what are the characteristics of Schumann Symphonies. To understand it easily, please compare between Brahms Symphony that more play than Schumann symphony.
The comparison between these two giants is not so simple to express. Meanwhile, let’s consider that Brahms was already Forty when he started composing Symphonies. This means that his knowledge of all pre-existing musical literature was formidable and we can hear it in every detail of his compositions. The great musicologist Martin Geck has perfectly described this aspect: “Brahms’ Symphonies seems to be carved in the stone”, works of monolithic beauty that collect the Beethoven heritage – of universal yearning – permeating the new late Romantic sensibility. An incredible task that only Brahms could accomplish. Schumann starts from a completely different approach. He enters the symphonic world at the age of 31, after the important and very rich piano and Lieder phases and starts in close contact with the world of Schubert – let’s not forget that Schumann was in possession of the autograph of Schubert’s last symphony, “The Great ” and made it known to the entire world -. Schumann’s approach moves to a more intimate symphonic form, closely linked to the composer’s life and his way of seeing the world. The cyclical form, the basis of Lieder literature, is also used by Schumann in his Symphonies: with its continuous thematic references and the desire to unite the movements with each other, in a single discourse.
3. Like a Schumann, You had studied law! In this situation, Have you and Schumann have common features? I wondering how you understand Schumann. As a listener, I am very hard to understand Schumann because his musical language isn’t direct.
I understand your point and can only try to show you a possible way to approach it. While embracing the classical-Beethoven model, there is in Schumann a need to accentuate the thematic unity between the four movements. Everything seems to germinate from a single idea (something similar to the Simphonie Fantastique by Berlioz), that vision that will soon lead to an orchestral conception that will arrive at the symphonic poems of Liszt and Strauss. Compared to the grandiosity of Brahms’ symphonies, we have here a more fragmented discourse because it is linked to a subjective (therefore not objective and universal) and more intimate approach.
This explains why the two symphonies we will perform are so different from each other: because they were composed in completely different periods of his life. The Third Symphony (1850/51) is a perfect “musical painting” of all the sensations and sentiments that Schumann experienced at the time of his new experience in Düsseldorf as Concert Director, living in the Rheinland and regarding its people. He seemed to be filled up with hope and optimism after “dark years” of his existence.
From the opening bars of this luminescent Symphony, we are enraptured by the jubilant and festive atmosphere, the Länder-like rhythms – popular dances and melodies – are flowing throughout the entire composition. Up to the re-enactment of the Flemish Baroque counterpoint and, perhaps still, Bachian: to thus give greater solemnity to the final part of the Symphony.
The Fourth Symphony that we will face will be the first version written in 1841, just after the First, left in a drawer for ten years and then revised by Schumann himself – and therefore cataloged as Fourth – only in 1851.
I preferred to present the first version of this troubled Symphony for its greater transparency and freshness than the 1851 version. IIt is described by Schumann itself as a “one-movement Symphony” – each of them goes into the next one without stopping -, permeated by spontaneous feelings and, particularly in the 1841 version, with its “chamber-like style” and its light transparency.
4. When I listen to Gphil’s music, I think If I was Gphil’s player, I was very hard. Because you are a very determined and persistent conductor for music! Nevertheless, You and Gphil showed musical change and development along the way. When leading an orchestra, what is important manner has the conductor?
I think I can call myself a “democratic conductor”, but you better ask the GPO members for confirmation! I mean that I don’t like to impose an interpretation but rather propose it and try to convince the talented musicians I work with to embrace it and help me to develop it. Often are themselves, once they understand the direction I am proposing, to suggests solutions to the musical phrases, accents and colors that enrich and complete my proposal. These are the most beautiful moments I have spent with them: we look at each other and smile, as if they were saying to me: “What do you think of this? Beautiful, right?”. This is pure joy, the immense happiness that I felt and feel in playing with them.
You should come to a rehearsal and witness it.
5. In April, you will play the complete Respighi’s Rome series. First, I appreciate that I can listen to these pieces for great quality! I think Respighi and Schumann have access methods differently. How ist Respighi’s character different from Schumann’s?
Indeed, with “Roman Fountains” we will complete our journey in Respighi’s Roman Trilogy – you see? another path to face .. – following the incredible responses we had with Roman Festivals and Pines of Rome. Among the three Symphonic Poems it’s the most meditative one, perhaps less bombastic but certainly no less fascinating than the other two. We combined it with Debussy’s supreme masterpiece “La mer” which will be tackled for the first time by the GPO: a piece of extreme difficulty and unsurpassed beauty. Water is the element that unites them, with all its vital and purifying force.
Last but not least, we will start with Ravel’s Concerto for piano and orchestra in G major played by the fantastic Juhee Lee – who with us last year participated at the successful Beethoven event of the “Five for Five” and in which she played an extraordinary Fifth Piano Concerto: a wonderful pianist and musician , so mature compared to her very young age! Really impressive.
6. You had a lot of quarantine time for play in Korea. Have know-how for quarantine time? But you really know everything!
Well … considering the last quarantine just ended, from July 2021 to today I spent 5 and a half months – between quarantine here in Korea and in Italy on my return – in this not entirely pleasant condition. A know-how you say? Only the immense love for Music and for my Orchestra, for all the members the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra, made me endure this difficult test. But I assure you it was worth it.