Primorskaya Regional Philharmonic /
Приморская краевая филармония
Светланская ул. 13
The unofficial theme for the Concert of Traditional Korean Music and Dances (Концерт традиционной корейской музыки и танцев) seemed to be one of “why not?” And the question was a good one. After all, it would be difficult to find a valid enough excuse to pass up a free, early evening Saturday concert in the center of Vladivostok; even for someone like myself, having no prior experience with the genre. And while I’m positive I was not the only one in the crowd unsure of what exactly they had gotten themselves into, this acted not in the least as a hindrance to the concert hall’s Big Room (Большой зал) quickly filling up. On the other hand, as I was accompanying several Korean students to the concert, I knew the performers were also guaranteed at least a pocket of national empathy. As the last few spectators took their seats and the lights were turned down, the show began.
The feature presentation at the Primorskaya Regional Philharmonic itself was a dynamic hour-and-a-half whirlwind of roughly a dozen separate pieces. Opening up with a ballet duo accompanied by a percussion-less ensemble of winds and strings, the rhythm of the evening quickly shifted gears as any number of different drum-types took the stage at one time or another. From a quartet of traditionally dressed performers sitting stage-front and cross-legged hammering out an impossibly fast tribal beat to a modern drum kit the likes and style of play of which one would not be surprised to find at a contemporary rock concert, the constant variation was conducive to an exciting pace throughout. At one point, near the conclusion of one of the many short interludes between separate pieces, as the lights came up, performers inexplicably appeared in the crowd, only to dance and play their way back on to the stage.
Far from being merely a medium of entertainment, the performance also brought to light some of the conflicts inhabitants of cultures with legacies as rich as that of Korea face living in such an integrated world. The juxtaposition of antiquity and modernity came in the form of a performer in opulent garb who was brought into direct confrontation with a modern, slick hipster in a slim tuxedo. As their dancing interpretations of the music competed for the crowd’s approval, each fought to gain supremacy over the other. The piece concluded as the former rivals conceded mutual legitimacy to one another by emulating each other’s routines, much to the amusement of the audience.
While this particular show was free to the public, the concert hall hosts performances of varying, internationally eclectic styles: modern jazz guitarists, blues trios, classical ensembles etc. Tickets for the events can be had for very reasonable prices. The original price of the show we attended was 300 rubles, as made apparent by its listing the ticket stub. However, on this occasion, it was subsequently decided to gift the show to the public by entirely waiving the ticket fee. On the website for the Primorskaya Regional Philharmonic, three- or four-show memberships (абонементы) are advertised for 300 to 450 rubles. And with the city’s Central Square (Центральная площадь), located directly opposite the theatre, attending a performance here would doubtlessly be the perfect precursor to a night on the town.