Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

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Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
Hangul 서울시립교향악단
Hanja 서울市立交響樂團
Revised Romanization Seoul Sirip Gyohyang Akdan
McCune–Reischauer Sŏul Sirip Kyohyang Akdan

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO), founded in 1948, is one of the oldest and most famous orchestras in South Korea. Its first foreign tour came on a 1965 trip to Japan, followed by performances in Southeast Asia in 1977, the United States in 1982, 1986 and 1996, a 1988 tour of Europe before the Seoul Olympics that year, and a 1997 performance in Beijing. The Philharmonic is an incorporated foundation since 2005. After music director Myung-Whun Chung resigned in 2015, the SPO is currently searching for new artistic leadership.


The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in January 1948, has a longer history than any other Korean orchestra. In February 1948, the orchestra held its opening concert, conducted by Maestro Seong-Tae Kim. In October of the same year, the Seoul Philharmonic Society was formed to provide support for the orchestra. The society published the music monthly Philharmony in the following year. After a subscription concert in the Seoul Civic Hall on July 25, 1950, the orchestra had to suspend its activities due to the outbreak of the Korean War, but resumed performance with the name of the Naval Symphony Orchestra, just five months later, to soothe the broken hearts of Koreans during the war.

In August 1957, the Seoul Metropolitan Council passed "The Seoul Metropolitan Ordinances to Install a City-Run Orchestra", and the Naval Symphony Orchestra became the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, the first Korean orchestra funded by a government. The launching ceremony for the orchestra with triple winds took place in the city council's chamber. Saeng-Ryo Kim was appointed its first Chief Conductor. Since then, the SPO has helped the symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky take root as basic repertoire in the Korean music community.

It was through these concerts that such names as Kyung-Sook Lee, Kun-Woo Pai, Kyung-Wha Chung, Dong-Suk Kang and Myung-Whun Chung, who have finally become maestros to represent the Korean music community, were able to blossom.

With the aim of growing into a major orchestra, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra was re-launched as an incorporated foundation on June 1, 2005 and appointed Myung-Whun Chung as its Music Director (he had been Artistic Advisor in 2005).

The orchestra under Chung performed the nine symphonies of Beethoven in 2006 and all of the symphonies and concertos of Brahms in 2007.

Since the re-launch as an incorporated foundation, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has performed with such world-class conductors as Charles Dutoit, Alexander Frey, Leonard Slatkin, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Pinchas Zukerman, Gennady Rozhdestvensky James Judd, David Afkham, Pascal Rophé, Kirill Karabits, Mikko Franck, Andrey Boreyko, and Francois-Xavier Roth, as well as such distinguished musicians as András Schiff (Pf), Martha Argerich (Pf), Kyung-wha Chung (Vn), Viviane Hagner (Vn), Mischa Maisky (Vc), Alexander Melnikov (Pf), Ilya Gringolts (Vn), Julian Lloyd Webber(Vc), Valentina Lisitsa (Pf), Nicholas Angelich (Pf), Hakan Hardenberger (Tp), Leonidas Kavakos (Vn), Arcadi Volodos (Pf), Gary Graffman (Pf), Colin Currie (Per.), Alexei Lubimov (Pf), Martin Frost (Cl), and Heinz Holliger (Ob).

The orchestra focuses on interaction with modern music. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra "has the reputation for championing more new music than any other major Asian orchestra". [1] It adopted the composer-in-residence system for the first time in Korea when it was re-launched as an incorporated foundation, and welcomed Unsuk Chin as its first Composer-in-Residence. Chin is founder-director of a series of modern music titled Ars Nova since 2006. It has featured conductors such as Peter Eötvös, Kwamé Ryan, Thierry Fischer, Susanna Mälkki, François-Xavier Roth, Ilan Volkov, Baldur Brönnimann and Roland Kluttig, among others. Until 2011, the series had presented around 100 Korean premieres - half of them being Asian premieres - of works by leading 20th- and 21st-century composers including Anton von Webern, Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, John Cage, Giacinto Scelsi, Witold Lutoslawski, Iannis Xenakis, György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez and György Kurtág. In 2009, the series collaborated with IRCAM, the Paris-based centre for electronic music. Korea. Since 2011, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has commissioned or co-commissioned orchestral works by composers such as Pascal Dusapin, Peter Eötvös, Tristan Murail and York Höller for the 'Ars Nova' series. Additionally, several commissions by major Korean composers have been premiered. [2] [3] [4]

The orchestra signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2011 to release 10 albums over five years, the first time that an Asian orchestra has signed such an extensive contract. A portrait CD with music by Unsuk Chin was named an International Classical Music Award and a BBC Music Magazine Award winner in the Contemporary Music category.


Principal Conductors
  • Saeng-Ryeo Kim (1948-1961)
  • Man-Bok Kim (1961-1969)
  • Gyeong-Su Won (1970-1971)
  • Jae-Dong Jeong (1974-1990)
  • Eun-Seong Park (1990-1991)
  • Gyeong-Su Won (1994-1996)
  • Mark Ermler (2000-2002)
  • Seung Kwak (2003, also Music Director)
  • Myung-Whun Chung (2006-2015, also Artistic Director)
Principal Guest Conductor
Full-time Conductor
  • Jae-Dong Jeong (1971-1974)
Artistic Supervisor
  • Seung Kwak (2002)
Associate Conductor
  • Eun-Seong Park (1984-1989)
  • Shi-Yeon Seong (2009-2013)
  • Su-Yeol Choi (2014-)
  • Unsuk Chin (2006-, also Artistic Director of Ars Nova series)


  • Pal-seong Lee (2005~2008)
  • Jooho Kim (2009~2012)
  • Hyeon-Jeong Park (2013~2014)
  • Heung-Sik Choi (2015~2018)



  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Harders-Wuthenow, Frank. 2011. "Ars Nova" - à sa manière In: 'Im Spiegel der Zeit - die Komponistin Unsuk Chin', ed. Stefan Drees (Mainz, 2011), p.205-218 ISBN 978-3-7957-0760-6.
  3. ^ magazine article [2]
  4. ^ "Musik als Chefsache - Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra auf dem Weg zum Weltklasseorchester"

External links[edit]