Myung-Whun Chung was born into a highly musical family as the youngest of seven children. At the age of only seven, he gave concerts with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra – the orchestra which he was to take over as musical director 53 years later. Chung has been musical director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France since 2000, and in the 2012/2013 season, he took on the position of principal guest conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden.
Chung opens his current programme with the overture to Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz, a work which more than almost any other, succinctly brings together the moods and themes of Romanticism: idyllic nature, the supernatural, love and inner conflict. Johannes Brahms’s Second Symphony is also considered a famous piece of Romantic landscape painting, which a contemporary described as all “blue sky, bubbling brooks, sunshine and cool green shade”. Brahms himself, however, saw his work differently – as “so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it”.
Although the cello concert by the Berlin-based Korean composer Unsuk Chin is a contemporary work, it also suggests the music of the Romantic period, both in the sensitivity of its expression and in the almost impossible virtuosity of the solo part. The cellist here is Alban Gerhardt, who also performed the world premiere of the concerto in London in 2009. At the time, the British Guardian, which described the work as a “major contribution to the concert repertoire,” praised in particular Gerhardt’s ability to make “[the score’s] difficulties and teeming luminous details seem the most naturally expressive things in the world”.