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Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

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Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra
Native name서울시립교향악단
LocationSouth Korea
Concert hallSeoul Arts Center, Sejong Arts Center, Lotte Concert Hall
Music directorJaap van Zweden

The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) is a South Korean orchestra based in Seoul. Founded in 1948, it is one of the oldest 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.


Founded in January 1948, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has a longer history than any other Korean orchestra. In February 1948, the orchestra held its opening concert, conducted by 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 Philharmonie 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, five months later. 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.

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 a basic repertoire in the Korean music community. Through these concerts, Korean musicians such as Kyung-Sook Lee, Kun-Woo Paik, Kyung-Wha Chung, Dong-Suk Kang, and Myung-Whun Chung attained increased recognition.

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). With Chung, in 2014, the Seoul Philharmonic made its debut at the BBC Proms.

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 the 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 center 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 (DG) in 2011 to release 10 albums over five years, the first time that an Asian orchestra has signed such an extensive contract. An album with music by Unsuk Chin was named an International Classical Music Award and a BBC Music Magazine Award winner in the Contemporary Music category.

Myung-Whun Chung was the orchestra's music director from 2005 until his resignation in December 2015.[5] During his tenure, the orchestra became the first Asian orchestra to sign a major-label record deal,[6] and gave its first performance at The Proms in August 2014.[7] In September 2016, the orchestra announced the appointments of Thierry Fischer as its principal guest conductor and of Markus Stenz as conductor-in-residence, effective January 2017, with initial contracts of 3 years.[8]

In April 2019, the orchestra announced the appointment of Osmo Vänskä as its next music director, effective January 2020, with an initial contract of 3 years.[9] Vänskä concluded his music directorship of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at the close of 2022.[10][11] In September 2022, the orchestra announced the appointment of Jaap van Zweden as its next music director, effective January 2024, with an initial contract of 5 years.[12][13]


Principal Conductor & Artistic Directors[edit]

  • 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)
  • Myung-Whun Chung (2005–2015)
  • Osmo Vänskä (2020–2022)
  • Jaap van Zweden (2024–present)

Principal Guest Conductor[edit]


Associate Conductor[edit]

  • Eun-Seong Park (1984–1989)
  • Shi-Yeon Sung (2009–2013)
  • Su-Yeol Choi (2014–2017)
  • Wilson Ng (2019–2022)
  • David Yi (2020–present)


  • Unsuk Chin (2006–2018, 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)
  • Eun-Kyung Kang (2018–2021)
  • Shon Eun-gyeong (2021–present)



  1. ^ "Archives - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times.
  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
  4. ^ "Musik als Chefsache - Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra auf dem Weg zum Weltklasseorchester"
  5. ^ "Maestro Chung Myung-whun announces departure from SPO". Korea Herald. 2015-12-29. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  6. ^ Martin Cullingford (2011-04-13). "Seoul Philharmonic signs to DG". Gramophone. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  7. ^ Erica Jeal (2014-08-28). "Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra/Chung/Wu review – playful and stylish sheng odyssey". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-09-06.
  8. ^ "Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra appoints Thierry Fischer as Principal Guest Conductor and Markus Stenz as Conductor-in-Residence Initial Three-Year Agreement to Commence in January 2017" (Press release). Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  9. ^ "Osmo Vänskä Announced As Music Director of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra" (Press release). Harrison Parrott. 30 April 2019. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  10. ^ Rob Hubbard (2022-06-03). "'I have done my part'". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2022-06-10.
  11. ^ "Osmo Vänskä to Not Extend Contract with Seoul Philharmonic". The Violin Channel. 2022-06-06. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  12. ^ Lee Si-jin (2022-09-04). "Dutch conductor named Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra music director". Korea Herald. Retrieved 2021-09-06.
  13. ^ Enid Tsui and Jiwon Park (2022-09-05). "Jaap van Zweden should give Seoul orchestra a 'unique sound' as its music director after his New York Phil and Hong Kong Phil roles, critic says". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2021-09-06.

External links[edit]