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Report from Wall Street Journal reporters on tour with NYP
New York Philharmonic Performs in North Korea
by EVAN RAMSTAD and PETER LANDERS
February 26, 2008 10:14 a.m.
PYONGYANG, North Korea — The New York Philharmonic won a five-minute-long ovation after an emotional climax to its unprecedented concert in North Korea.
The Philharmonic chose the traditional Korean folk song “Arirang” as its third encore. As the clapping died down for the piece and orchestra members stood up to leave the stage, the audience was unwilling to let them go and the clapping regained volume. Then, a few North Koreans waved and, from the back of the stage, the Philharmonic’s trombone and trumpet players waved back.
New York Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel accepts a bouquet of flowers from a North Korean woman after the concert on Tuesday.
With that spark, from the front rows to the top balcony, the North Koreans burst with cheering and waving in an ovation that continued for another five minutes. Philharmonic music director Lorin Maazel, who had left the stage when the outburst began, came back to see it and wave himself.
The ovation left Philharmonic members happily stunned and, backstage, reduced some to tears. Violinist Michelle Kim, whose parents were both born in what is now North Korea, said she was overwhelmed with emotion because she knew the folk song just as well as the North Koreans. “I grew up with it. It was part of my heart,” she said. “It brought back so many memories.”
Mr. Maazel said the ovation “sent us into orbit.” He told reporters he interpreted the audience as saying, “We understand the gesture of coming here. It could not have been easy for you. We appreciate that you did.” Mr. Maazel said, “The groundwork has been laid, no question about it” for better U.S.-North Korean relations. “I think it’s going to do a great deal,” he said. “There may be a mission accomplished here.”
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