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The Utah Symphony's Thierry Fischer has picked up a side job: principal guest conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, South Korea's flagship orchestra.
Fischer, music director of the Utah Symphony since 2009, will continue in that position; his contract here runs through 2019. Along with newly named Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) conductor-in-residence Markus Stenz, he has signed to the Korean orchestra for three years, beginning in January. A committee of seven including SPO CEO Heung-Sik Choe and musicians from inside and outside the orchestra made the appointments. The SPO's previous music director, internationally renowned conductor Myung-Whun Chung, resigned amid conflict with the former CEO at the end of December, according to Korean newspapers.
Fischer was in Switzerland on Wednesday and was not available for comment, but he said in a news release that he was thrilled with the appointment. He conducted the SPO as a guest four years ago and was "immediately struck by the very high level of musicianship, the total commitment from the players and the flexibility of the ensemble," he wrote, adding that he is determined to uphold Chung's "incredible legacy, whilst exploring new directions."
Utah Symphony | Utah Opera CEO Paul Meecham said on Wednesday that Fischer's work in Korea will be "really complementary to what he's doing here." While Fischer will be in Seoul for five or six weeks out of the year, Meecham said, his schedule in Salt Lake City will be his top priority. Meecham noted that it's common for conductors to hold jobs with more than one orchestra. (When Fischer arrived in Utah, he was wrapping up two other contracts: as chief conductor of the Nagoya Philharmonic in Japan, where he now serves as honorary guest conductor, and as principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.)
"We are thrilled that Thierry Fischer and Markus Stenz, two first-class conductors of international stature, have accepted the invitation to work more closely with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra," Choe said in the news release. "We truly look forward to a new chapter of ambitious music-making and creative programming."
The Seoul Philharmonic, founded in 1945, is one of Asia's longest-standing orchestras. Fischer and Stenz are anticipated to conduct at least 10 of the SPO's 40 subscription concerts between them each season. Fischer's concerts in the first season will include works of Haydn, Brahms, Berlioz, Mahler, Shostakovich and other composers, and he'll close the season with a performance of Beethoven's Ninth involving three major Korean choirs.