Norwegian youth orchestra dazzles crowd in Korea

Norwegian youth orchestra dazzles crowd in Korea

Norway’s top youth orchestra — Young Strings of Norway — performed a vivacious rendition of classical pieces during its maiden tour of Korea last week.

Comprised of 40 teenage talents up to the age of 19, the orchestra, directed by Barratt Due Institute of Music, has nurtured generations of prodigies since it was founded in 1927.

Among them are world-class concert masters Ludvig Gudim and Camilla Kjoll, and violinists Vilde Frang and Eivind Holtsmark Ringstad, who have performed in cultural capitals across the globe.

Sponsored by the Norwegian royal family, the youth orchestra has also played at prominent venues, such as Nobel Prize award ceremonies and royal concerts.

The institute is currently under the helm of Korean-born, Norwegian artistic director Chung Soon-mi, who is a member of the Arts Council Norway. She was educated at the Conservatoire National de Paris, International Menuhin Music Academy in Coppet, Switzerland and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Visiting Korea — a land of old heritage and modern culture — has been a unique experience for these young musicians,” Chung told The Korea Herald in an interview last week. “Norway and Korea need these young personalities who act as cultural ambassadors in our fast-changing world.”

The trip was organized by the Norwegian Embassy in Seoul and Statoil of Norway. The players performed at Chonnam National University, Seoul Arts Center and Korea National University of Arts, where Korean professor Kim Nam-joon and cellist Joo Christina Yeon-sun gave masterclasses.

At Seoul Arts Center, the orchestra played Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Leos Janacek’s Suite for String Orchestra, Nino Rota’s Concerto for Strings, Christian Sinding’s Suite in the Old Style, Sandor Veress’s Quattro Danze Transilvane, Wojciech Kilar’s Orawa and Korean folk song Arirang.

“What is unique about the orchestra is that the musicians play without a conductor, using their prior guidance and energetic teamwork,” she said. “Our philosophy is that music does not have age boundaries. We educate from toddlers to teenagers, and they inspire one another to push their boundaries.”

Norway, which has a relatively short musical tradition compared to other European countries, has produced “outstanding” musicians and ensembles, Chung said, pointing to Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), the leading Romantic-era composer and pianist.

The country has a rich tradition of amateur music at municipal and local cultural institutions, she added, highlighting the strength of school wind and brass bands. Internationally recognized players such as trumpeter Thing Helseth studied at The Barratt Due Institute.

Symphony orchestras exist in major cities and are “of high standards,” the director argued. “Many foreign musicians want to work and live in Norway.”

The Norwegian Opera and Ballet Company is based in Oslo, and its new Opera House — set against the Oslo fjord and resembling a glacier sliding into water — is an iconic tourist attraction.

Despite having a small population of 5 million people, the Nordic nation has produced global stars such as cellist Truls Mork, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and violinist Vilde Frang, she mentioned.

“Vacant positions at symphony orchestras and music colleges are publicized internationally,” Chung said, encouraging young aspirants to study and perform in Norway.


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