Word that the reclusive communist nation had invited the Philharmonic to perform there first broke last August; The New York Times reported yesterday that the U.S. Department of State and New York Philharmonic management had agreed to accept the invitation. Representatives of both institutions, as well as of the New York-based Korea Society (which assisted in arranging the visit), spoke at a press conference this morning at Avery Fisher Hall, the orchestra's home in Lincoln Center, where specifics of the trip were disclosed.
The Philharmonic will travel to Korea from Beijing following the final concert of next February's 14-day, 11-concert tour to Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. The orchestra, with support staff and accredited journalists, will spend February 25-27 in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang; the itinerary includes a dress rehearsal and performance as well as master classes in which Philharmonic musicians will coach local conservatory students.
The program for the historic concert, to be held on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, features the prelude to Act III of Wagner's Lohengrin, Gershwin's An American in Paris and Dvorák's "New World" Symphony (No. 9). Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel will conduct.
The following day, the orchestra will depart for the South Korean capital, Seoul, where they perform a program featuring Beethoven's Fifth Symphony at the Seoul Arts Center on February 28.
The South Korean television network MBC, which is underwriting charter air transportation to and from Korea by Asiana Airlines, will record the concerts for future broadcast.
Major support for the Philharmonic's performances in North and South Korea has been provided by Yoko Nagae Ceschina, a longtime patron of the orchestra.
"It is our sincere hope that these concerts will aid in the beginning of a new era between the peoples of our nations," said Philharmonic executive director Zarin Mehta in a statement today. Added Paul B. Guenther, the orchestra's chairman, "From the historic 1959 tour to the Soviet Union, to the 2005 celebration of Dresden's rebuilt Frauenkirche, to the February concerts, it is our hope that the music of the Philharmonic, can, in some way, serve as a catalyst for positive change."