Utah Symphony's assistant concertmaster a man of many tastes

Interview • Assistant concertmaster releases first CD of violin music to add to wine honors.
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When David Park was a senior in high school in Seoul, South Korea, his mother dreamed her son would be a doctor — even though both of his parents were professional cellists.

"Well, that's where my father came into the picture," Park said. "He had told me a touching story [about] when he was a boy growing up in South Korea. During that time, they had very little access to advanced musical performances. And when a violinist from the New York Philharmonic came and performed, he was so moved that, until this day, he remembers the beauty of that performance. He thought that music was one of the strongest components of emotional power that can touch and move people. Thus, that propelled me to pursue music and to use it for that purpose in society."

Park is now the assistant concertmaster of the Utah Symphony. His new debut album, "Violin Meditations," offers a virtuosic exploration of the works of Chopin, Ravel, Bach, Rachmaninoff and other composers.

Yet he's not just a violin player. He loves cars, so much so that Mercedes-Benz, in a rare honor, is endorsing the CD. He's also a sports fan, who likely dreamed of having Nike fete him with Air Park sneakers. And his love of the generally humid Bordeaux climate has influenced his doting devotion for red wine.

A true Renaissance man, Park answered Tribune questions about his debut album, sports and the music of the vine.

If you weren't a musician for a living, what occupation would you have chosen?

When I was a teenager, my two idols were the great [Lithuanian violinist] Jascha Heifetz, whom I had the extreme honor to study with, and the great Michael Jordan. As a kid, I was very attracted to sports. In my elementary school, I held two track records, and in high school, I [was in] varsity tennis and track. Thus, I wanted to be like Mike. But like so many other fields, the reality sets in when you get older.

Explain what it means to be "Commanderie du Bontemps de Medoc et des Graves."

Besides music, my true passion is wine, and especially Bordeaux wine from France. In the beginning of 2011, when I was invited to play a concert at a château estate that had existed [since] 1680, I was ecstatic. Being a Francophile, I programmed predominantly French classics. Well, I was very excited to see in attendance at the front row a few mayors and owners of Grand Châteaux [which houses the Musée Condé, one of the finest art galleries in France]. Afterward, perhaps from the power of music and love for the French culture and wine, they had decided to induct me as a Commander of Honor, into what is widely considered the grand wine society called Commanderie du Bontemps de Medoc et des Graves. [It] includes some high-profile people like Hugh Grant, Prince Philip and Plácido Domingo. The event of the induction was attended by likes of the Rothschild family, the Prince of Luxembourg, the former Prime Minister of France and the Count and Countess from Germany. What I was mostly excited about was from out of 48 inductees, I was the only musician.

What is it about Bordeaux wine that excites you?

Some experts say that Bordeaux wines are like the music of Bach: very structured and appealing to the mind. Well, for me it can also bring infinite colors of aroma that cannot be described or not found elsewhere in nature. So it may be safe to say that Bordeaux wine is the father of all wines.

What are the goals that you had for your debut CD?

Bringing pleasure to the listeners. The other day, someone who purchased a CD told me that she was playing the CD all day and was worried that it might wear out. That kind of comment really makes me happy. I wanted this CD to be accessible to everyone — from kids to elderly, beginners to advanced professional musicians, and for all occasions. Furthermore, being affordable also helps.

How do you see your role as assistant concertmaster?

Being one of the leaders is to try not to do too much, but to show by example. If I do my job correctly, people around me will feel the energy coming out of me and help the overall musicmaking of the orchestra. Plus, being close to the conductor, I can sense his energy and try to exude that to the others.

What is the most memorable experience of your musical career?

Being a native South Korean, one has to be when I returned to Korea for the first time to solo with the orchestra that my parents used to play in. And also when I performed Vivaldi's Four Seasons at Carnegie Hall, because of [the venue's] history.

Describe what audiences can expect from the Nov. 30-Dec. 1 performance of the Utah Symphony.

The Utah Symphony concert on Nov. 30 should be fantastic. For me, the balance in repertoire is everything, and for this concert, we have a great array of composers such as Haydn, Bruch, Mendelssohn and Debussy. —

'Scottish Symphony'

P Thierry Fischer conducts the Utah Symphony and violinist Fumiaki Miura in music of Haydn, Bruch, Mendelssohn and Debussy.

When • Friday and Saturday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 8 p.m.

Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $18 to $53 at ArtTix.org or 801-355-ARTS (2787); ($10 single tickets are available to concertgoers ages 30 or younger) tickets $5 more on performance day.

Learn more • Fischer and associate principal bassist Corbin Johnston will present a free onstage chat each night at 7.

About "Violin Meditations" • Assistant concertmaster David Park's new CD — endorsed by Mercedes-Benz — is available for $10 before concerts at the Utah Symphony Store in the lobby of Abravanel Hall.