Universal Music plays that sweet Seoul music

SEOUL, April 12, 2011 – On April 7th in Seoul, South Korea, Universal Music Group, the world’s leading music company, spearheaded a new phase in its activities in Asia as Universal Music signed an exclusive worldwide contract with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and its Music Director Myung-Whun Chung for recordings to be issued under the Deutsche Grammophon label.

The repertoire covered by the contract includes: a disc of Debussy and Ravel; Mahler Symphonies Nos. 1, 2 and 9; Tchaikovsky Symphony No 6, Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition and the Mozart Requiem. The first recording of French music is scheduled for international release in August 2011 in time for the orchestra’s international tour. Further repertoire is currently under discussion. The producer for the recordings is the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s Senior Artistic Advisor and Grammy award-winning producer Michael Fine, formerly Deutsche Grammophon’s Vice President of Artists & Repertoire.

East Asia is a dynamic region for sales of classical recorded music. Leading the way is South Korea, a country with a population of 50 million and a burgeoning classical music culture: in Seoul alone there are 18 orchestras, while thousands of young Korean musicians are training and making careers at home and around the world. In 2010, Korean sales of recorded music in digital and physical formats grew by 12%, in contrast to trends in most other world music markets.

In the past, Myung-Whun Chung has made numerous European recordings for DG and Decca, with orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw, but this contract brings his first Universal Music recording sessions with the Seoul Philharmonic, which has been under his directorship since 2005. Founded in 1948, it is the country’s longest-established and most prominent orchestra, and has experienced something of a renaissance under Chung’s leadership over the past six years. 2010 saw the orchestra making a tour of nine European cities including Berlin, Bologna, St. Petersburg and Prague, while summer 2011 brings dates at European festivals, including the Edinburgh International Festival. More than half the orchestra’s players have undertaken training outside Korea, just under a fifth of its members come from other countries, and its composer-in-residence, Unsuk Chin, enjoys a considerable reputation in Europe, notably Germany.

Costa Pilavachi, Senior Vice President, Classical Artists & Repertoire, Universal Music Group International, explains that: “This landmark signing signals Universal Classics’ growing involvement in the musical life of Asian countries. Our labels have fostered relationships with a number of exceptional Korean artists: Maestro Chung, his violinist sister Kyung-Wha Chung, soprano Sumi Jo and the pianist Kun-Woo Paik. But the signing of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra puts us at the heart of Korean musical life and acknowledges Korea as both a major market and a major source of talent. Since I first visited South Korea in 1982, I have seen the country develop into an economic and cultural powerhouse. The audience for classical music is young, sophisticated and knowledgeable, and we expect them to take great pride in seeing their top orchestra on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label. Korea – along with China and the other nations of East Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand – is key to the future of classical music.

Myung-Whun Chung, Music Director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, says:

“It’s been six years since I took the helm of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and signing a contract with the world’s top classical music record label Deutsche Grammophon will be a big footing for Seoul Philharmonic to become a world class orchestra. In music, besides ‘someone who is good’, there is ‘someone who has unique sound of each and every expression and interpretation’. Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has its distinct sound, sound that only Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra can play. I will be satisfied when we are known to be a truly world-class orchestra after five years of recording and touring.”

Jooho Kim, CEO of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, says:

“There is a sense of frustration in music performance that it flies away like a scent as time passes. I am pleased that the contract with Deutsche Grammophon will be our measure to secure Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance.”

BJ Yang, MD, UMGI Korea says:

“It is our greatest pleasure and honour to welcome Maestro Chung and the SPO. Needless to say Maestro Chung and the SPO are the musical treasure of Korea with astonishing virtuosity and passionate commitment in a wide range of repertoire.”

About Universal Music Group

Universal Music Group is the world’s leading music company with wholly owned record operations or licensees in 77 countries. Its businesses also include Universal Music Publishing Group, the industry’s leading global music publishing operation.

Universal Music Group’s record labels include A&M/Octone, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Disa, Emarcy, Fonovisa, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Lost Highway Records, Machete Music, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Polydor Records, Show Dog – Universal Music, Universal Motown Republic Group, Universal Music Latino and Verve Music Group as well as a multitude of record labels owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world. The Universal Music Group owns the most extensive catalogue of music in the industry, which includes the last 100 years of the world’s most popular artists and their recordings. UMG’s catalogue is marketed through two distinct divisions, Universal Music Enterprises (in the U.S.) and Universal Strategic Marketing (outside the U.S.). Universal Music Group also includes eLabs, its new media and technologies division; Bravado, its merchandising company; and Twenty-First Artists, its full service management division.

Universal Music Group is a unit of Vivendi, a global media and communications company.