Volume 5 / Chapter 189
The chairman of the competition committee and President Stern were having beer and pizza for lunch.
“We’re using the scores you sent over, well.”
“Wasn’t the timing appropriate?”
“Ha ha. You’re still the same. I guess you asked to see me so quickly because you have something to discuss?”
“I think you can already guess what that is. Is that not right?”
The chairman took a bite of his pizza, a sip of his beer, and examined Isaac Stern’s expression. He knows that it is President Stern’s personality to make what he wants happen. There will be an employee of the committee who acts as his informant so that he knows exactly what is going on with the competition. His coming to meet him as the chairman meant that he wants to get a definitive answer anyway.
“If you’re talking about Jun’s conducting, we are keeping it in mind. We haven’t had such a case until now, but since the composer was already the visiting conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, there won’t be an argument.”
“He won’t be missing as a hot topic either. Isn’t he the composer of Inferno?”
“We are already thinking of that as well. Mr. Stern, I see you want to put Jun on the stage no matter what.”
“It’s because I don’t think there’s anything comparable to having this be his debut as a conductor. And it’ll be meaningful for him to premiere his own song.”
Stern took a sip of beer and said what he wants without hesitation. With his personality, he cannot just sit back and wait with an uncertain statement that they are keeping it in mind.
“If the situation is where Jun cannot conduct, he will not attend the awards ceremony. An employee from Stern Corporation will accept the award on his behalf.”
“That’s a bit harsh. He needs to discuss the work with the finalists, and the composer must tell us his views.”
The chairman slammed his glass of beer down. Sending someone else to accept the award means lowering the value of the award.
“I have full faith in Jun as a composer. The thought is that the score is the performer’s once it has left his hands. We just look at how the performer interprets it. I will respect Jun’s opinion as his manager.”
He is not wrong. It is a preferred way of thinking to the pretentious composers who interfere with performers. The chairman could not think of anything to say in response.
“The only time Jun stands on stage in Palais des Beaux-arts will be when he is conducting.”
Winners of the Queen Elisabeth Competition must attend a feast with an invitation from Queen Fabiola of Belgium. If Jun Hyuk does not attend that, he will be leaving a flaw that cannot be washed away.
“There are 6 finalists with piano and violin. If you do the final performance with a choral concerto, you’ll need 6 performances. Our committee is planning on having 2 per day, for a total of 3 days of finals.”
It has not yet been confirmed, but the chairman came clean with what he wants and what the competition supporters want. As long as it has become a reality, nothing bad will come of telling him in advance.
“Piano and violin? Then you’re not thinking of putting the vocals in with the final song?”
“No. We looked over it several times and the art director is also in opposition. The tenor stands out too much. It’s not fair. We will think about having the winners do special appearances though.”
Isaac Stern nodded in understanding.
“So what do you think about asking the composer Jun to do 3 performances?”
“If you say 3, you mean for him to alternate conducting with Maestro Pierre Boulez?”
“Yes. One day each. They’ll stand on stage together on the last day.”
‘He’s really trying to get as much out of this as he can. What a drag.’
Isaac Stern was having a difficult time trying to hold back his laughter. Isn’t this basically comparing the conducting of two men?
He must have come up with such a plan with the thought that it would become incredible news. It is something that not even Stern himself thought of.
“Alright. Then the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra takes the main performance and the Belgium National Orchestra takes the final performance. Jun conducts 3 times in the finals. Is that right?”
“Yes. Practice will be twice a week. Until March. If possible, we’d like to start next week.”
“Alright. We’ll prepare so there will be no disruptions. We request that the orchestra members know the score completely by next week.”
While Isaac Stern was returning to the castle, he thought that he had done everything he needed to in Brussels. All he has left to do is stay for 2 or 3 days to show Jun Hyuk a fun time.
Jun Hyuk spent 3 days with Isaac Stern. They did not just go to Brussels, but also Brugge, a 100km away and retaining a medieval atmosphere.
In Brugge, there is an old town that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is so beautiful that it is called the “Venice of the North” and it is a place where tradition lives. There is also beer to that standard, created with an old know-how.
Jun Hyuk spent a few days enjoying beer and getting drunk with Isaac Stern, the pleasant old man.
“Jun. I’m going back to New York tonight. Practices start next week, so rest comfortably until then. Oh right. Someone else is coming tomorrow or the day after. This person will take care of you, so just say whatever you need.”
As soon as President Stern went back to New York, Jun Hyuk spent his days quietly with a maid from Eastern Europe.
There were no people in the area, so all he could hear were the winter wind and birds. The weather was warm even though it is winter so the lake did not freeze over, but it rained often. It is not a freezing winter but a chilly one.
Sunday morning before his first meeting with the Belgium National Orchestra, he heard a knock on his door as he was about to get up to get dressed. He opened the door thinking that it would be the maid telling him to come eat breakfast, but he saw another familiar face.
“Good morning, Maestro. Come have breakfast.”
In front of the door, Tara Butters from Boston was smiling as though they had seen each other yesterday.
“Tara! What are you doing here? Are you the secretary that Isaac mentioned?”
His eyes were wide in surprise and Tara stopped smiling to speak,
“Yes. Do I make you uncomfortable?”
“Oh, no. I actually wished for someone like you when Isaac spoke about a secretary. I didn’t think we’d meet like this again.”
Tara’s face brightened with Jun Hyuk’s honesty.
Tara Butters met a lot of conductors while assisting maestros, and she has never been impressed. Jun Hyuk on the other hand, is a shockingly phenomenal conductor and she could feel that he really needs an assistant from his extrovert personality.
When Tara heard that Jun Hyuk had signed with Stern Corporation, she applied to be his secretary and interviewed with President Stern.
She had won over President Stern’s favor in the interview when she said that she ‘wants to see a miracle’. In addition, President Stern had not hesitated to hire her because of her foreign language proficiency, a necessity in dealing with conductors from countries all over the world. Her reputation in the industry also played a role in her hire.
Tara took Jun Hyuk by the wrist and dragged him.
“Let’s go. We’ll talk over breakfast.”
Jun Hyuk sat across the table from Tara and spoke,
“There are 2 things I want right now. Take of those for me first.”
“Yes, of course.”
Tara was about to take out her notebook when Jun Hyuk waved his hand.
“You won’t need to make note of it. You’ll need to do it now. First, tell the maid that she can just make breakfast and come back for dinner. And tell her that she won’t need to come at all on days when I have rehearsals starting next week. I’ll just eat at a restaurant before coming in since I’ll be in the city anyway.”
“Alright. And the second?”
“Call me Jun from now on. Speak to me more comfortably. And stop saying maestro and sir when you speak to me.”
“Stop. If you can’t do it, go back to Boston. What’s there to do if I’m uncomfortable?”
Tara looked at Jun Hyuk’s frowning face and laughed lightly.
“Okay. I’ll call you Jun from now on.”
Tara got up from the table and spoke with the maid in French for a moment. The maid’s face brightened as she said ‘merci’ to Jun Hyuk and packed her bag to leave.
“Whew. Now I can finally relax and eat.”
Jun Hyuk felt relieved now that the maid who had been standing next to the table to watch him eat, had gone.
“Jun, do you know why President Stern hired me as your assistant?”
Tara was eating a piece of cheese and she seemed to be as relaxed as the tone had become more comfortable.
“Because you’re competent?”
“That’s not what I mean… It means that you’re going to have to handle a really packed schedule. I heard that you have a performance with the New York Philharmonic once the competition is over. You’ll have less and less personal time.”
“I know about the performance with the New York Philharmonic, but do I already have a schedule after that?”
“Not yet. But if the performance is successful, I’m sure you’ll become busy.”
“And that’s why he hired you?”
Jun Hyuk had not experienced a schedule full of performances every single day. It did not look so bad.
“One part of my job is to figure out when you need to stop.”
“When I need to stop? Don’t become a workaholic?”
Tara took the fork out of her mouth and tapped her plate with it.
“The competition will probably be the last time you have any free time. You’ll only have to work twice a week. If there’s anything you want to do in this time, let me know.”
There had not been a time that he had spent with free time until now. He was always writing songs and working on them. It is just that the kinds of work changes for Jun Hyuk.
He finished his meal and Tara held a CD out to him.
“It’ll be good for you to hear this.”
“What is this?”
“Belgium National Orchestra concert album. It’s the latest one, so it’ll be able to check the orchestra’s color and the sound of the large hall in BOZAR. I’m sure it’ll be good to hear it before the meeting tomorrow?”
Jun Hyuk held a thumbs up to Tara. She really has no flaws.
Tara went for a walk in the area with Jun Hyuk, and told him about the people he would be meeting the next day.
“Jun, the looks you get might not be very nice.”
“Because you made a tremendous contribution to the development of contemporary music. Choral Concerto is the complete opposite. They’ll also be a bit ill-tempered because they need to give you a part of the conducting.”
The head of the Belgium National Orchestra, Pierre Boulez, is a Swiss conductor and music theorist. He is such a devotee to contemporary music that he is called a ‘revolutionary who struggles with the past’.
“Okay. I guess I’ll have to avoid conflict as much as possible.”
“And who knows. Since you are the composer of Inferno. Anyway, don’t mind it too much.”
He has yet another person to nag at him now, but he could feel a warm sense of caring.