This program features the very first performance of a Western symphony orchestra in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. See more »
Host Bob Woodruff gives the impression that the first time that the Overture to "Candide" was performed was in 1990, when the New York Philharmonic, in Bernstein's honor, performed it without a conductor. In fact, it was first performed in 1956, when "Candide" premiered on Broadway, and Bernstein himself performed it many times, including a full-length performance of the musical which he conducted. See more »
This is an enjoyable recording of a performance in Feb 2008 by the NYP under conductor Lorin Maazel, in Pyongyang, Korea. It was the first time a Western orchestra had played in the country, and billed as a "rapprochement" between the 2 class-based capitalist countries the US and North Korea and I suspect most of the intense audience was there with politics not music foremost in their minds. I bet those 1960's-style seats throughout the auditorium hurt (by) the end! The venue was pretty stark although easy on the eye, and the playing by the Orch was lush and certainly easy on the ear.
Highlights of the night (to me) were the extracts from Dvorak's New World Symphony - how fitting to play that in Pyongyang, the tribute to Bernstein with a rudderless Overture to Candide, but especially Arirang. It's a rather beautiful Korean folksong at the best of times, but their wordless rendition here make it ultra-dignified and even more layered and ravishing than usual. Those used only to 3 minute warbles by Korean folk singers have a surprise coming! Also helping was that the rapport between Maazel (who will retire in 2009 after 7 years with the NYP) and Orch seemed perfect.
Symbolic events such as these will not bring about reconciliation of the US and North Korea or other capitalist units, but music on its own merit can bring ordinary people together if allowed to by our Betters. Get this "historic" DVD for a few brief hours with one of the worlds most polished orchestras at the top of their game, and their sublime version of Arirang to at least help bring about the rapprochement of your senses.
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