In Rome, musical life is enriched by the fact that each major State has three different embassies: one to the Italian Republic, one to the Holy See, and one to the three major United Nations Agencies - the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme - all headquartered in the city. In addition, about sixty international organizations have their offices in the Italian capital. This accounts for a large international audience. Many Embassies have cultural institutes; many were established a century ago with the purpose of hosting their own national scholars to study the antiquities, but several now have active musical activities catering for their nationals living in Rome, the international audience as well as the Italians. I have occasionally reported on concerts by the French, German, Brazilian and US cultural institutes.
On 31 July 2019, I attended a musical event scheduled by the Korean Cultural Institute for Korean Cultural Day. The title was Sarang è Amore ('Love is Love') - Sarang means love in Korean.
This event was a double bridge, between Korea and Italy, and between music and poetry. The Institute is in an elegant and pleasant art nouveau villa in the city centre and has a good size auditorium with an excellent acoustic.
The concert was performed by the Umbria Ensemble with a Korean poet and musician, In Sang Hwang, reading poems (in both Korean and Italian) during the intermissions between musical pieces. I reported on the Umbria Ensemble last September when I reviewed the Sagra Musicale Umbra - War and Peace, Music & Vision Magazine, 20 September 2018. For this concert, the Umbria Ensemble (normally a quartet) was a trio with Maria Cecilia Berioli on cello, Lucrezia Proietti on piano and Luca Ranieri playing viola. Beniamino In Sang Hwang is a long-time resident of Italy where he has had important assignments and commissions; he teaches at the Perugia Conservatory and is the director of two choral ensembles.
The concert included three In Sang Hwang compositions: The Street does not Exist without You, At the Seaside in Winter and The Lovers. The other numbers were interesting adaptations for trio of well-known Italian orchestral works - the Intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and the Overture from Rossini's Barbiere di Siviglia and film music scores by Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota and Nicola Piovani - all composers well-known in South Korea. The common thread was that they are all contemporary neo-romantic composers who make no concession to experimentalism. In Sang Hwang too is a neo-romantic composer, as shown also by his previous works, often for the theatre.
For me this was a novelty because I had been acquainted mostly with Korean electronic and electroacoustic music primarily through the annual international EMUfest organized by the National Santa Cecilia Academy Electronic Music Department, as well as with experimental music listened to essentially at the Salzburg Festival. Yet, it was a good idea to have a neo-romantic program for an international audience such as that at the Korean Day of Culture concert. It is clearly understandable music which the audience can hum when leaving the concert hall and remember thereafter.
Two main comments are in order. In Sang Hwang's poems are blended with subtle irony that can be caught also in his compositions. The Umbria Ensemble were very skilful and ingenious in adapting large orchestral compositions for trio whilst maintaining their flavour.
The audience was very pleased and applauded warmly.
Copyright © 7 August 2019