My second debut in 2016 was in Busan, the second largest city of South Korea, which I had visited only once before. Busan is a very important port city, and it is especially famous for its Haeundae beach, but also for its seafood and the straight forward character of its inhabitants. Busan has also a famous film festival and a choral festival. Busan Philharmonic is known for the fact that it was the first Korean orchestra to engage a foreign chief conductor (Mark Gorenstein from Russia), and until this day they have followed this trend by inviting many non-Korean conductors to lead the orchestra. Since last December they don't have a permanent chief conductor, and they are now searching one.
I greatly enjoyed my time in Busan both in and outside of rehearsal. It was a big surprise to me, that one of the orchestra's principal players had played with me before in Cleveland! This helped my connection with the orchestra a lot, and the rehearsals went very smoothly. I also enjoyed the city's food culture a lot - maybe a bit too much since I had to cancel one rehearsal because of a food poisoning! I don't think it was seafood though, since everything I ate was very fresh.
Our concert at the Busan Cultural Center was a resounding success. The program was very traditional (which I think is good when you make your first contact with a new orchestra) - Mozart's Don Giovanni overture, Grieg's piano concerto with Hyo-Sun Lim as the soloist, and Beethoven's 7th symphony. Knowing how enthusiastic the Korean audience can be I reserved Glazunov's beautiful Serenade No. 2 for the encore.
During my stay I met some old friends and made many new ones, including several fine musicians in the orchestra. I wish Busan Philharmonic the best success in their search, and hope for many happy returns!