Korea National Symphony Orchestra has new name, new maestro and new plans

Choi Jung-sook, CEO of the Korea National Symphony Orchestra, left, and Daniel Reiland, the artistic director, during its press conference held on Monday at the Press Center in central Seoul. [KNSO]

It’s been a year since the Korea National Symphony Orchestra (KNSO) appointed, for the first time, a foreign maestro to be its artistic director, under its new name that has the word “national” added to it.

Though the orchestra, which was formerly called the Korea Symphony Orchestra, has been working hard as a state-run orchestra since 2001, accompanying dozens of performances by state-run theater groups like the Korea National Ballet and the Korean National Opera, it had been perceived as a private institution due to its name.

During a press conference held on Monday in central Seoul, Choi Jung-sook, the CEO of the orchestra said that the orchestra, which receives about 70 percent of its annual budget from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, has made “a lot of changes over the past year and made numerous efforts to live up to its new name.”

“Changing the name by officially adding the word ‘national’ may seem like nothing, but it really allowed all the members of the orchestra to have the same heart, that we should be the representative orchestra of Korea,” said Choi.

She added that the name change naturally led the members of the orchestra to have a sense of responsibility and for the orchestra look into every corner for an overhaul — from increasing the quality of the performance, the orchestra’s social contribution, training the younger generation and embracing people from all different backgrounds to increasing its activity overseas.

“I think my role as an artistic director is to further solidify the identity of the KNSO, as a national orchestra,” said Daniel Reiland, the artistic director of the orchestra. “We can do that by creating tradition and balance of sound that only the National Symphony has.”

To show the true identity of the KNSO, Reiland said the orchestra is getting ready to release a special album late next year.

“We’ll select important works from Korea’s history and development of its music, and they will include of course renowned Korean composers’ works ranging from Isang Yun [1917-1995] to Unsuk Chin and other composers we discover along the way,” he said. “The album will summarize Korea’s history of music and show its potential to the world.”

Reiland said the competence and creativity of Korean composers are recognized worldwide, including in Europe and America, and he believes it is the KNSO’s mission to highlight that.

“Through this album, we hope to summarize how Korea has contributed to the history of music and inform the western world of the level of Korean music,” he said.

The orchestra also signed an agreement with the renowned Queen Elisabeth Competition so that it can hold a concert together with the winner of the event within three months after they are awarded.

CEO Choi also added that the orchestra will hire about 16 more members within the first half of this year. The orchestra has a quota of 100 members and it currently has 78.

Last year, the orchestra also successfully initiated the International Conducting Competition and had its first event held last November. Its winner, Elias Peter Brown was hired as the orchestra’s Assistant Conductor and its second prize winner Yoon Han-kyeol signed a management contract with Askonas Holt, one of the world’s leading arts management companies specializing in the field of classical music.