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Conductor Gum Nanse

From time to time, Gum Nanse, a 60-year-old media-savvy conductor, has come under criticism that he is preoccupied with commercial success, rather than the quality of music his orchestras produce. The prominent conductor, who has served many international orchestras such as the European Master Orchestra and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra as music director, however, doesn't seem to care much about this complaint.

"Of course I am concerned about the quality of music. But what is good music if there is no audience? All I am stressing is that musicians need an open heart to reach out to potential audiences," Gum said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

In fact, many of Gum's concerts have been unconventional, by local standards. Gum held a six-hour marathon concert in 1993 featuring five full-length violin concertos by Mozart and five piano concertos by Beethoven, played by the Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra where he was the permanent conductor.

In 1996, he organised the first joint concert between Korea and Norway, with dozens of veteran musicians from the two countries participating. The festival was a big success. Despite all the controversy about his work, one thing is for sure: the local classical music world owes him much for the genre's current popularity. "People find Gum's approach to classical music casual and fun. He's also always ready to tell a funny story, which helps," said Ko Hee-kyung, head of the Seoul Arts Center's education business department.

The conductor, who is currently leading two local orchestras--the Euro-Asian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra--made his debut as a conductor at age 17 with a youth orchestra, but he considers his winning a bronze medal at the International Young Conductor's Competition hosted by the Herbert von Karajan Foundation back in 1977 as his official debut.

"Many musicians wish that there were such great orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, after attending a concert in Europe, but, more than anything else, I wished we could have such great audiences," Gum said, explaining how the competition set his life's path in classical music.

The Euro-Asian Philharmonic--although it has never had enough financial support since it was created in 2000--has performed more than 130 times during this year alone. "There's no place I can't go to, as long as there are audiences," Gum said.

The Gyeonggi provincial government provides the Gyeonggi Philharmonic with annual financial support of 3 billion won (US$3.19 million), which is about 2 billion won less than what the Seoul Philharmonic is getting from the Seoul city government. "It is still a huge amount of money. Considering what I have done with the Euro-Asian Philharmonic, almost without anything, I feel great responsibility," he added.

During the year-ending concert tonight (Dec 28), Gum and the Gyeonggi Philharmonic will perform Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture", Poulenc's "Concerto for Two Pianos in D Minor", and more. (By LEE YONG-SUNG/ The Korea Herald/ ANN)

MySinchew 2008.01.10



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