(left) Conductor-pianist Chung Myung-whun; (right) soprano Sumi Jo (Photo courtesy of Seoul Arts Center and KCCUK)
Western music was first heard in Korea with the introduction of a
Christian hymnal in 1893, and began to be taught at schools in 1904.
Changga, a new type of song sung to Western melodies, flourished across
the country. As the nation experienced tumultuous changes with its
forced opening to the West and the prolonged Japanese colonial rule,
changga was sung to enhance love for the nation, a desire for
independence and a new cultural form. In 1919, Hong Nanpa composed
”Bongseonhwa (Touch Me Not)” in the form of changga.
national liberation in 1945, Korea's first Western-style orchestra was
inaugurated as the Korea Symphony Orchestra Society. The first
generation of Korean classical musicians, the ones who studied music
while taking refuge in Busan during the Korean War in the 1950s, grew up
to establish music colleges all over the country.
most notable performers are the Chung Trio: conductor-pianist Chung
Myung-whun, cellist Chung Myung-wha and violinist Chung Kyung-wha, along
with pianist Paik Kun-woo, and many others.
singers, sopranos Jo Su-mi, Shin Young-ok and Hong Hei-kyung, dubbed
the Three Opera Divas, have all established an impressive presence in
the international music community. The troika has performed leading
roles in productions at New York's Metropolitan Opera and other famed
stages in addition to recording for world-famous music companies.
classical music has grown tremendously over a very short period, with
nearly 50 full orchestras in Seoul and the provinces. An increasing
number of Korean musicians are performing outside Korea these days,
winning acclaim from concert audiences and awards at prestigious
instrumentalists train to perfection of technical mastery and
expressiveness under the guidance of master-professors of the Korea
National University of Arts (KNUA), one of Korea’s leading
conservatories (photo courtesy of KNUA).
first generation classical music artists, who went overseas in droves in
the 1970s and ‘80s to hone their craft, were not neglecting the
importance of educating the younger students. The students they taught
upon their return are now venturing onto the world’s stages with skills
they learned and developed at home in Korea, representing the second
generation of Korean classical music.
As of today, Korea’s young
classical musicians continue to mesmerize the world with their growing
artistic eminence, frequently spotted at numerous internationally
acclaimed contests held across the globe. A small country in the Far
East -- once seen as an unexplored land in the international classical
music community, merely a few decades ago -- continues to collect upper
rank laureates at international contests like the Tchaikovsky
Competition and the Maria Callas Grand Prix. The worldwide Western
classical music scene, traditionally dominated by European, Russian, and
Japanese musicians, is now faced with what the Belgian music
documentary journalist Thierry Loreau calls the “Korean landslide.”
this regard, the establishment of the state-run Korea National
University of Arts (KNUA) has accomplished a great deal in fostering
gifted youths, allowing them to receive an early high-quality education.
Korean National Research Institute for the Gifted in Arts, an organ
under the KNUA, was established in 2008 to cultivate a pool of gifted
young artists in music, dance, and traditional arts through providing a
specialized quality educational program in accordance with the Korean
government’s policy initiative (photo courtesy of KNUA).
For more information, visit the official website of KNUA at: http://eng.karts.ac.kr/main/main.do