Maestro’s South Korean Adventures – Part 8

Thursday, June 21

The morning pattern continues: a long walk/run around the lake, breakfast, wait five minutes for some brewed coffee at Starbucks, walk across the street to rehearsal. When I arrive at the conductor’s lounge, the Executive Director, Inho, Ms. Baek, and Reena are waiting for me to go over the schedule for the next couple of days. We have a double rehearsal today with lunch in between, so the AM rehearsal will end at 11:30, which will be exclusively on the Prokofiev. It has been arranged for me to work with our soloist Jaehong YIM, at 11:30 before we head out to lunch. At 1:30 we will rehearse Brahms with the soloist and go to 3:30.

The AM rehearsal goes without a hitch just a few tweaks needed. My only wish at this point is that we might have the benefit of the hall working for us, but the orchestra seems to not be concerned. Besides, Choi has told be repeatedly how much I’m going to enjoy it.

After rehearsal I meet privately with our outstanding soloist in the conductor’s lounge. Jaehong is well-known in South Korea, teaching at a University in Busan and being concertmaster of an important chamber orchestra in Seoul. He plays through the Brahms concerto and proves himself to be a formidable artist with a solid technique and a marvelous expressive sound. I make a few notes in my score, then the rest will left up to rehearsal.

At lunch we meet with the two violinists that had approached us on Tuesday. They are both members of a group they call the Caldera quartet. Their cellist is also with us and Choi comes along to help with the language. It is another Korean lunch at a very nice place and may be the best Korean food we’ve had yet. The conversation revolves around their upcoming concert and my impact on the Changwon Philharmonic which they interpret as very positive. They pick up the tab for lunch and after thanking them profusely, we head back to the rehearsal hall for Brahms.

The rehearsal goes well. We deal with pacing, balance, sound, interpretive and other challenges expected in a first rehearsal on a concerto. This is business as usual and after a full read of a movement and a second pass stopping for various issues, we get through the whole piece in the two hours allotted. For a variety of reasons, the Changwon Philharmonic has made the unusual request to have the concerto as the second half of the concert. My only concern is that Brahms following Prokofiev is a tougher shift than Prokofiev following Brahms. I explain this to the ensemble to make sure that they have mentally made that shift.

After this rehearsal, Choi drops Leslie at the Lotte Department store (red flags for me!) and Choi takes me to a virtual golf place nearby since we had no time to sample one of Korea’s courses (red flags for Leslie.) The virtual course Choi selects is in fact the one we would have played if we had one more day, sigh. Choi is quite the athlete and even though he has not played in awhile his swing comes back in short order and he starts hitting some amazing shots. His putting is the great equalizer so even though I’m lousy tee to green I’m able to keep up with him for a few holes. The course is very difficult (on a hillside and narrow) so any errant shots are out of bounds. Score one for the Koreans vs. U.S. in this match!

I head back to the hotel and find that Leslie has made it back from the Lotte department store to pick up a new outfit. She has fallen in love with the offerings there both in make-up and clothes and tells me about her experience. Later in the early evening we walk north of the hotel to the neighborhood we had discovered on Tuesday with the restaurants and coffee houses. To our dismay, NONE of the restaurants in this area serve beer or wine. It is disappointing and after much discussion, we head back to Hotel Avenue to Cubar’s Grill for a Camembert Pizza and some wine, which is excellent.

Once back in the room, we decide to turn on the TV and discover a couple of channels with English language films. There is not much in regards to English language news although we have been able to access an English language newspaper at breakfast to at least keep us somewhat apprised of world events. We watch the end of a remake of The Day of the Jackal with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere (as well as J.K. Simmons who has a minor role long before his Oscar win for Whiplash and becoming a spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance.)

Another busy day added to the week, but only one dress rehearsal and the concert is left.