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Chung, Myung-Whun

Chung, Myung-Whun

Chung, Myung-Whun, talented Korean-born American conductor and pianist, brother of Myung-Wha and Kyung-Wha Chung; b. Seoul, Jan. 22, 1953. He played piano as a child, making his debut as soloist with the Seoul Phil, when he was seven. He then went to the U.S., where he studied with Nadia Reisenberg (piano) and Carl Bamberger (conducting) at the Mannes Coll. of Music in N.Y., and at the Juilliard School (diplomas in piano and conducting, 1974); he received additional tutelage in conducting there from Sixten Ehrling (1975–78). He made his conducting debut in Seoul (1971), subsequently winning second prize in piano at the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (1974). He became a naturalized American citizen in 1973. He pursued a dual career as a pianist and conductor; he gave trio concerts with his sisters; was asst. conductor of the Los Angeles Phil. (1978–81), and chief conductor of the Saarland Radio Sym. Orch. in Saarbrücken (1984–90). On Feb. 21, 1986, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in N.Y. conducting Simon Boccanegra. In 1989 he became music director–designate and in 1990 was confirmed in the position of music director of the new Opéra de la Bastille in Paris. While his tenure was initially successful, the election of a new French government led to a change in the administration of the Opéra. Although Cung’s tenure as music director was to extend to the year 2000, the new administration in 1994 sought to end his tenure by 1997, freeze his salary, and deny him artistic control of the Opéra. His refusal to accept these altered terms led to an abrupt dismissal, although he conducted the opening performances of the season in Oct. 1994 with Simon Boccanegra before taking leave of the embattled company

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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