Mehta wishes for peace in Korea

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jan 4, 2013 - 19:40
  • Updated : Jan 4, 2013 - 19:40
Internationally-acclaimed conductor Zubin Mehta on Friday expressed concerns over the tension between the two Koreas and called for peace, possibly through music.

“I know there are things going up and down here,” the maestro said at the press conference held at the Grand Hyatt Seoul on Friday, a day before his New Year Gala Concert with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

“I still remember when my brother, who was working as the secretary general for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, visited Pyongyang with maestro Lorin Maazel and the group for a concert few years ago. As I watched CNN news, a reporter interviewed a man on the street and it was heartbreaking for me to hear the man saying how blessed he is to live in North Korea while South Koreans are living in desperation, poor and without jobs. I hope this will change in the future,” he said.

Mehta insinuated that music could help. 
Maestro Zubin Mehta speaks during a press conference held at a Seoul hotel on Friday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

“We should not underestimate the power of music. Music will not solve all the problems, but can make all people smile at each other,” he said.

The renowned artist will hold the “New Year Gala Concert” in Korea on Saturday and Sunday at the Seoul Arts Center. Mehta has already conducted the New Year’s Concert in Vienna in 1990, 1995, 1998, and 2007 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the concert organizers said this will be a great opportunity for Korean fans to glimpse into the glamour of the events in other parts of the world.

The maestro and the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Overture Leonore 3 in C Major Op. 72b, Korsakov’s Spanish Capriccio Op. 34, a Strauss waltz and others on Saturday and on the second day, Brahms Symphony No.1 in C Minor will be performed in place of the Strauss waltz.

“The first part will be more of classical and romantic pieces of Beethoven and Rimsky Korsakov while Strauss will be at the second part. All the repertoires featured are my favorite and those that are close to my heart,” he said.

Mehta said he enjoyed performing in Korea. “Since 1984 I have seen an explosion in the Korean audience and I enjoy being here,” he said.

The conductor also expressed affection for Korean artists ― Mehta and the Israeli orchestra will perform with established pianist Paik Kun-woo in Tel Aviv in March.

“(During our first collaboration in 2011 in Seoul) His natural music-making left great impression on me and the orchestra and that’s why we have decided to invite him again,” he said.

“Also at major orchestras in the U.S. there are a large percentage of Oriental players including Koreans. There are great Korean singers all over the world, too. You should be very proud of your country!” he said.

Is there anything, or any challenges left for the great artist?

Since his sensational debut in 1958, he led the Vienna, Berlin and Israel philharmonic orchestras and is an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera and Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien. He is also an honorary conductor of the philharmonic orchestras of Vienna, Munich, Los Angeles and Bavarian State. He is one of the “legends” among conductors, with his participation in the “Three tenor” series with Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras held during World Cups. That and other occasions made him famous even among those who are not familiar with the classical music scene.

“Of course,” the 76-year-old artist smiled. “This year I will be featuring Wager’s opera, ‘Parsifal’ for the first time and will be playing Haydn, which I have never tried before,” he said.

“But I am young! There is nothing wrong with me yet,” he laughed. “I am in heaven when I am conducting,” he said.

By Bae Ji-sook (