Sunday, February 19, 2012

New York Philharmonic: Arirang Fantasia

 The New York Philharmonic performs Arirang Fantasia, under the baton of Lorin Maazel, during the orchestra's appearance in Pyongyang, North Korea, at the East Pyongyang Grand Theater on February 26, 2008. 


One could say with a high degree of certainty that this was the first time that most North Koreans had heard the Korean folk song, hauntingly ethereal, played by foreigners. In The New York Times, Daniel J. Wakin reported the day after the concert the response of the privileged North Koreans in attendance:
As the New York Philharmonic played the opening notes of “Arirang,” a beloved Korean folk song, a murmur rippled through the audience. Many in the audience perched forward in their seats.
The piccolo played a long, plaintive melody. Cymbals crashed, harp runs flew up, the violins soared. And tears began forming in the eyes of the staid audience, row upon row of men in dark suits, women in colorful high-waisted dresses called hanbok and all of them wearing pins with the likeness of Kim Il-sung, the nation’s founder.

And right there, the Philharmonic had them. The full-throated performance of a piece deeply resonant for both North and South Koreans ended the historic concert in this isolated nation on Tuesday in triumph.


  1. A friend of mine who is a violist in the New York Philharmonic was there at that time, although I didn't catch sight of him performing. He said that when the plane carrying the musicians landed in South Korea after the concert, he wanted to kiss the soil. However, he didn't.
    Now that the Kim Dynasty has allowed music into North Korea, maybe they will do something to end the recurring famines there.

  2. Excellent point. We value freedom more after exposure to its opposite.


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