Sejong Soloists, named after the 15th-century arts advocate Korean Emperor Sejong the Great, and hailed by CNN as one of the top ensembles of today, and having previously performed in New York City's venues at The Julliard School and Carnegie Hall, premiered their Tenth Annual Gala in New York's newly renovated Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Center.
Former CNN anchor and cellist, Paula Zahn, who has been performing with Sejong Soloists since 2004, was Master of Ceremonies.
A unique, first-class conductor-less string orchestra, it is composed of 14 distinguished young musicians from all over the world.
The ensemble was envisioned 15 years ago as a young cultural ambassador by artistic director Hyo Kang, a renowned violin professor at The Julliard School and Yale University. The ensemble keeps a very busy schedule as it has performed 350 concerts on the world's major stages; recorded six albums; participated in musical activities for youth; and is featured in documentaries.
Sejong has collaborated with artists such as Joshua Bell, Robert Blocker, Sarah Chang, Kyung Wha Chung, Vladimir Feltsman, Leon Fleisher, Lynn Harrell, Sharon Isbin, Joseph Kalichstein, Garrick Ohlsson, Cho-Liang Lin, Gil Shaham, Jian Wang and Juilliard String Quartet.
Sejong is highly committed to creating new repertoire and forging new collaborations across different disciplines – commissioned new works include pieces from composers such as Augusta Read Thomas, Behzad Ranjbaran, Sukhi Kang, Eric Ewazen and Jay Greenberg, to name a few.
The Sejong Soloists ensemble performed Maurer's Sinfonia concertante for Four Violins in A major, Op. 55, Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 Nan-Pa Hong's Oarman's Song and Richard Danielpour, one of the most sought-after composers of his generation premiered Lacrimae Beati, based on Mozart's Lacrimosa, part of the Requiem, his last and most popular composition.
The audience was especially enthralled by the sparkling stars of the evening's performance -- the four young violin virtuosi currently attending The Julliard School studying with Hyo Kang and performing on Guarneri del Gesu and Stradivarius violins.
The first violinist, Chun-Wen, recently won the first prize at the Sion Valais International Violin Competition in Switzerland. Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Miron and fifteen-year-old Ye Hyung Chung who recently came from Israel, sporting their tuxedos and holding their bouquet of roses, commented how they would practice up to 7 hours a day to prepare for the concert.
Musician Alex Alexander who also teaches percussion and drums stated, It's fantastic that youth are being taught to be this passionate about classical music. Their precision is fantastic and the fact that they lend them the ancient Cremona instruments, the Stradivarius and Gesu violin, is really wonderful. These teenagers seem to have more passion and fire than the older musicians. Also, because they are younger their sound is purer with less social interventions in their heads.
Mr Hyo Kang, the brainchild of the Sejong Soloist, has been a violin professor at The Julliard School since 1978 and Yale School of Music since 2006. His students, some of whom were performing this week, have distinguished themselves with top prizes at the world's most prestigious competitions, and are performing with major orchestras worldwide. The Korean government has awarded him the National Arts Medal for his contribution to the arts.
Architect Abel Yee, commented, When I entered the theater, my first thought was the dynamic curved surfaces of wood. It felt like the inside of a musical instrument - a violin. The entrance is an overhang of the massive weight of the theater building above, playing with emotional stress and tension. Architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro continue the themes of paranoia surveillance voyeurism connecting to and exploiting psychological fragilities of urban living.
Alex Alexander commented on the acoustics, The sound of the new hall has been very well planned. It was as if the sound had been recorded and mastered with the finest microphones, equalizers & processors in the world. Yet there were none.
After initial discussions with David Michaels, Chairman Emeritus of the Uruguayan American Chamber of Commerce and MercoPress Bureau Chief, Mr Kang stated that he is very keen in bringing Sejong Soloists to Latin America. I have not ventured further south than the Casals Festival, the classical music event celebrated every year in San Juan, Puerto Rico, so it is time to have our worldly musicians become known to Latin American audiences.”
By Dina Pinos in New York