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Korean performers at the 2023 Edinburgh International Festival

If you haven’t seen the National Changgeuk Company’s production of Trojan Woman, head up to Edinburgh this August. It was our London performance of the year in 2018. We wrote a detailed review here.

Note that this is a post relating to performers at the main International Festival. There’s a separate post for Korean performers at the Fringe, here.

Korean performers at the 2023 Edinburgh International Festival

Date: Tuesday 8 August - Thursday 17 August 2023
Edinburgh (various venues)

Tickets: from £13.50 | More details with ticket links below
Composite image of 2023 Edinbrugh Festival performers

Five performance programmes from Korea to celebrate 140 years of diplomatic relations with the UK: three of chamber and solo instrumental music, plus the KBS Symphony Orchestra and the National Changgeuk Company.

8 August: Novus String Quartet

The Queen’s Hall, 11:00am
Tickets from £13.50 | Buy tickets here

Schubert String Quartet in C minor D703 ‘Quartettsatz’
Britten String Quartet No 2, Op 36
Brahms String Quartet in A minor Op 51 No 2

Novus String QuartetThe Novus String Quartet is one of South Korea’s leading chamber ensembles. The quartet has developed a thrilling international reputation ever since winning first prize at the Salzburg Mozart Competition in 2014. Making its International Festival debut, the quartet performs three contrasting masterpieces from the heart of the string quartet repertoire.

The concert opens with Franz Schubert’s ‘Quartettsatz’, a short, poetic piece that captures the beauty of the composer’s bittersweet style. Benjamin Britten’s Second String Quartet forms the centrepiece of the programme. Britten wrote this work after the end of the Second World War to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Henry Purcell’s death. Britten’s tribute to his eminent Baroque forerunner takes the form of the final Chacony. This is an extended set of variations in which Baroque structure melds with Britten’s rugged harmonic style. To close, Brahms’s Second String Quartet embarks on a journey through the composer’s autumnal romanticism.

9 – 11 August: National Changgeuk Company

Festival Theatre, 7:30pm
Tickets from £21 | Buy tickets here

Bae Bam-sik, Ahn Sook-sun, Jung Jae-il: The Trojan Women

National Changgeuk Company performing Trojan WomenGreek tragedy and pansori, an ancient Korean form of musical storytelling, blend in this production from the National Changgeuk Company of Korea and directed by Ong Keng Sen.

Set after the sacking of Troy, Trojan Women sweeps audiences up in the heartbreak and determination of the city’s female survivors. Through a whirlwind of music, dance and theatre – brought to life by over 25 singers, actors and musicians – emerges a stunning portrait of resilience in the face of war and occupation.

Heralded as a visionary director, Ong Keng Sen is famed for his retellings of European classics through Asian performance styles. K-pop producer and Parasite film score composer Jung Jae-il has collaborated with renowned pansori master Ahn Sook-sun to create the original music.

11 August: KBS Symphony Orchestra

Usher Hall, 7:30pm
Tickets from £17.50 | Buy tickets here

Dvořák Cello Concerto
Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5

The KBS Symphony OrchestraThe musicians of the KBS Symphony Orchestra are at the forefront of South Korea’s classical music scene. They make their Festival debut under their Chief Conductor Pietari Inkinen – described by Gramophone as having ‘confidence and talent to spare’. Together, they perform two Romantic masterpieces.

Dvořák wrote his Cello Concerto during 1894–5 while he was working in America and longing for his native Bohemia. He revised it in 1895 to include a tender elegy in memory of his recently deceased sister-in-law Josefina. It is one of his most passionate and lyrical compositions. The soloist is rising star Jaemin Han, the youngest ever winner of the George Enescu Competition.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony dates from his final and arguably greatest decade. An eloquent exploration of fate, the symphony progresses from a brooding and volatile first movement to an exuberant dance-infused finale.

15 August: Yeol Eum Son (solo piano)

The Queen’s Hall, 11:00am
Tickets from £13.50 | Buy tickets here

Bizet Variations chromatiques
Czerny Variations on Pierre Rode’s Ricordanza
Liszt ‘Ricordanza’ from the Transcendental Etudes
Alkan Variations on a Theme of Steibelt
Beethoven Piano Sonata No 29 Op 106 ‘Hammerklavier’

Yeol Eum SonMulti-award-winning pianist Yeol Eum Son’s tempestuous recital celebrates 19th-century keyboard virtuosos.

The first half of this performance features French, Austrian and Hungarian music. Georges Bizet’s daring Variations chromatiques is followed by Carl Czerny’s playful Variations on Pierre Rode’s ‘Ricordanza’. Franz Liszt’s étude Ricordanza, which pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni termed ‘a bundle of faded love letters’, shows him at his most tenderly nostalgic. Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Variations on a Theme of Steibelt is flamboyant, witty and brilliant.

The recital concludes with the great piano sonata the ‘Hammerklavier’ by Beethoven, an inspirational figure for all four composers. Fellow composer Hector Berlioz described this sonata as a ‘sublime poem’ after he heard Liszt play it in Paris. It is full of passion and drama, with a beautiful slow movement and one of the most challenging and thrilling finales in the piano repertoire.

17 August: Clara-Jumi Kang (solo violin)

The Queen’s Hall, 11:00am
Tickets from £13.50 | Buy tickets here

Solo violin works by BachErnstYsaÿe and Milstein

Clara-Jumi KangWinner of the 2010 Indianapolis International Violin Competition, Clara-Jumi Kang has appeared with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. Her playing has been described as ‘dazzling’ (Bachtrack) and is celebrated for its ‘sensitivity and rapt focus’ (The Arts Desk).

Born in Germany to a musical family, Kang took up the violin at the age of three and made her concerto debut with Hamburg Symphony at only five years old. Since then, she has established an award-winning career as a soloist, performing with orchestras across Europe and Asia.

Kang has released several solo albums, most recently performing all ten of Beethoven’s violin sonatas with ‘constant poise’ (The Strad). Her Festival recital features virtuoso solo works by JS Bach, Eugène Ysaÿe (the ‘King of the Violin’) and Nathan Milstein.

(automatically generated) We didn’t review this event, but the Guardian did, here.

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