North Korean orchestra in Paris, when will Unhasu play in New York?

Under the baton of maestro Chung Myung whun, music director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, 130 musicians of the radio orchestra will play in a joint concert with Uhasu Orchestra of the DPRK, composed of young musicians in Paris’ Salle Playel on 14 March 2012.

Chung is also the principal conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic; he has visited Pyongyang twice in 2011; and has, it seemed, worked out logistics for the visit of 70 North Korean musicians to France.

The musicale programme will reflect the common universal appeal of classical music and leave the politics behind, it seems. Chung has found the young North Koreans eager to learn under his direction.

Negotiations have ironed out the tensions that the joint South Korean US naval exercises have aroused; they threatened to ‘sabotage’ Unhasu Paris debut.

‘Airirang’ the traditional Korean folk song is on the programme. Brahms Symphony no. 1, often referred to as ‘Beethoven’s 10, will take center stage. It reprises the central theme of Beethoven’s 9 symphony in Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’, the national hymn of the European Union.

Thus the central musical discourse is peace and brotherhood.

Unhasu’s debut in Paris raises the question: why has not the US sponsored Unhasu or Pyongyang Philharmonic in New York after the triumphant visit of the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Lorin Maazel in February 2008?

That concert was televised worldwide from Pyongyang, and the cd recording and DVD sold remarkably well. And then on the US part, total silence. Why?

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