Volume 5 / Chapter 196
“Hey! Why did you talk like that?”
As soon as he picked up the phone, he could hear Yoon Kwang Hun yell. But the tone did not feel like a scolding. It felt like he was holding back laughter.
“Are you talking about the interview? You saw it?”
“Yeah. I saw it broadcast live on the internet. It’s crazy.”
“Well… The reporters asked relentlessly. It was annoying. So I just said what I was thinking… I don’t know why everyone is making such a fuss.”
When Jun Hyuk answered cautiously, there was yelling again. It was something he had not been expecting.
“Of course. You should have just done it. You can’t catch up with his piano sonata? Why so timid? You really don’t think you could?”
“No, I don’t. It’s a total uncrossable wall.”
“I don’t think so. You have quite a few piano sonatas that could easily be put up against Beethoven’s.”
“I can’t follow Beethoven’s way of using one theme to create a song.”
Jun Hyuk forgot that he was on the phone and shook his head.
“You still have a long way to go before you’re 50 years old. Work hard at it.”
Yoon Kwang Hun and the maestros who know Jun Hyuk well were applauding the situation with laughter and looking on with interest.
“Jun. I guess you are afraid of Beethoven? You have one foot in and one quietly pulled out.”
Jun Hyuk was exhausted from taking over 10 calls full of jokes.
While the internet was becoming more and more heated over Jun Hyuk’s statement, Jun Hyuk was starting the first rehearsal with the vocal finalists.
The vocal soloists gathered around a single piano in order to practice just the solo parts. When Jun Hyuk entered the room, Laura was the first to welcome him.
“Jun. Congratulations on the win.”
“Laura! Congratulations. It was the best performance. It’ll be your time now.”
“What are you talking about? It’ll be the time of the new Beethoven. Ha ha.”
Not surprisingly, it came up again.
“Whew – You saw the interview?”
“You think there’s anyone who hasn’t seen it? Where did that confidence come from?”
“No. That article was exaggerated.”
They could feel the 5 other soloists’ eyes on them and quickly stopped chatting, blushing.
Jun Hyuk quickly changed his expression, and bowed to the vocal finalists.
“First, congratulations on reaching the finals. And I apologize for having a personal conversation for so long.”
Jun Hyuk hastily sat in front of the piano and spoke again to the 6 vocalists.
“You practiced yesterday with Maestro Boulez? Then forget everything that you felt during practice yesterday.”
The finalists seemed to be a bit taken aback. The rumor was true. The rumor that the 2 conductors are performing with completely different interpretations of the song had leaked little by little through the orchestra.
“Of course, also forget Beethoven’s choral symphony. I’ll say it again, but it’s an entirely different song.”
As soon as Jun Hyuk spoke, a thick voice spoke up.
“It might be possible for the orchestra, piano, or violin, but it’s hard for singers like us to erase Beethoven. Isn’t the song we’re singing Ode to Joy?”
A male vocalist who entered the finals as a baritone looked a bit discontented.
“The lyrics are Ode to Joy but honestly, there isn’t much meaning to it. There wasn’t really anything else to put in, and I don’t write well enough to put in my own lyrics… But I kept the meaning of the first verse of the lyrics. I’ll tell you about this again later.”
The first verse of Beethoven’s choral symphony is not Schiller’s ‘Ode to Joy’. They are lyrics that Beethoven himself wrote.
“The important thing is the feeling you have while singing. You’ll know when you join the orchestra for rehearsal soon, but it is really aggressive.”
During practice yesterday, Maestro Boulez kept stressing ‘elegance’. It is ‘aggressiveness’ today?
“If I have to express it in one phrase, it would be like a war song.”
The baritone’s face became an expression of doubt. It is hard to find war in the first verse that Jun Hyuk had said was important.
“Yes. It’s not a song that is showing the joy of victory. The entire 4th part is in the midst of a battle. You are all warriors. You’re warriors who become excited at the sight of blood. That’s the kind of thought you have to have while singing.”
“Is it in symmetry with the 2nd part?”
Laura watched the other soloists and spoke cautiously.
“Why do you think that?”
Jun Hyuk’s eyes flashed as he looked at Laura.
“I suddenly thought of it when you said that it’s a battle. The 2nd part is the unrest of fugitives, or retreating soldiers? The fear of people being chased? I got that kind of feeling.”
“Really? Did you get that feeling like practicing with Maestro Boulez yesterday?”
“No. Maestro Boulez said that the 2nd part doesn’t forget humor. It was a completely different feeling and what you’re saying is the feeling I got when I first saw the score.”
Jun Hyuk felt like he had discovered another side of Laura. Regardless of the fact that she has enjoyed singing from a young age, it is a talent to be able to look at a score and figure out the composer’s intentions at once, and not practice.
“So you’re saying the 2nd part is retreat and the 4th is a battle?”
“It isn’t? Did I get it wrong?”
Laura looked over Jun Hyuk’s expression.
“Hang on. Before that, can you tell me what you thought of the overall flow?”
“What? Don’t you have to tell us as the composer?”
“I just want to know how you took it. Everyone, tell me what you thought of the parts before, not just the 4th. There’s no such thing as a correct answer, so please speak frankly.”
As though they had been waiting to, everyone poured out their opinions but Jun Hyuk was only looking to Laura.
“Since you said that it’s a battle… With the analogy to a battle, the 1st part is a fierce battle, the 2nd is retreat, the 3rd reorganizing the battle line, and the 4th is the final showdown. Something like this?”
“Reorganization? The 3rd part?”
“Yeah. But it doesn’t seem smooth.”
“Why don’t you think it’s going smoothly?”
“After the trombone in Andante Maestoso in G Major, there’s a viola with a dark and dismal atmosphere. Of course there will be individual differences, I felt an uncanny fear. They’re bracing up for battle, but there’s a dense fear of defeat. I think that the 3rd part is dominated by this kind of feeling.”
She is impressive. There is no doubt that Laura had a fierce battle with the score in order to come up with an interpretation like this. This ability to interpret must come from her sense of expression, that is easily comparable to that of star vocalists without falling behind.
Jun Hyuk however, hid these thoughts and urged the vocalists without mentioning it.
“You need to keep the emphasis on the change in the vocal and chorus part. I’m sure you all saw the score and already know, but there is prestissimo and then the speed is suddenly reduced to poco adagio. And then it’s vivace again. You need to handle this change in tempo well.”
Jun Hyuk looked at Laura again and continued with his explanation.
“The overall flow is as Laura just said. I only used the word ‘battle’ to express the vehemence. Lastly, it is about the first verse of the song I talked about first.”
Jun Hyuk quietly read the lyrics that Beethoven himself wrote,
Oh friends, not these sounds!
Let us strike up something more pleasant, full of gladness.
“Think of the sagging shoulders of the soldiers who are participating in the final showdown. Hoping they’ll have courage as they’re taking heavy steps toward death, but the foreboding that they can’t escape death. You need to express this complex state of mind.”
The baritone, who needs to sing the first verse, swallowed hard. Starting with a grim resolution instead of joy! It is the first time he is experiencing such a thing.
They finished their long discussion on the interpretation of the song, and Jun Hyuk played the piano. Everyone looked at their scores and created a beautiful timbre along with the piano accompaniment.
Having lyrics could be the easiest way to express emotions. Happiness and sadness are relayed directly through words rather than a melody and rhythm.
But when they are told to deliver an entirely different emotion from the lyrics, it is only an interference. Furthermore, Ode to Joy is a straightforward narrative and not a metaphor. The vocalists try to express the resolution as per Jun Hyuk’s demands, but they keep getting lost in the lyrics.
Before Jun Hyuk can saying something, the soloist realizes that he has not been able to bring out the emotion that Jun Hyuk wants, and often stopped the song.
“It’ll be easier to experience it for yourself, won’t it?”
After stopping a few times, Jun Hyuk looked mischievous.
“Let’s try it out one at a time. First, Laura.”
“Jun. What are you telling us to do?”
When Laura came next to the piano, it was evident from her expression that she was nervous.
“The same thing. Forget that it’s a chorus and just think that you’re singing an aria. The piano accompaniment is going to change, but don’t worry because it’ll match the song perfectly. Shall we start?”
Laura started singing on Jun Hyuk’s signal, while the piano only picked up the simple chord. But when it slowly started becoming more complex, the other vocalists began to get nervous.
If it had been a battle where the piano and voice went back and forth, they would have been able to look on with interest. However, it was more like a scene from a horror movie where the beautiful protagonist is being chased. The surprised expression on Laura’s face heightened this feeling as well.
When the song was over, Laura was in a cold sweat and the watching vocalists let go of their breaths.
Jun Hyuk took his hands off of the keys and spoke to the vocalists who had been watching instead of Laura.
“Alright. You all sang along silently while Laura was singing, right?”
Everyone had moved their lips and sang along silently. Is that not instinct for a singer?”
“Keep in mind what you felt while listening to my piano and Laura’s singing. That is exactly what I am asking for.”
Laura did not know the reason for Jun Hyuk’s words and looked over the expressions of the other vocalists. As soon as they realized that the performance just now was for them, they looked more surprised than Laura did.
“So shall we try it again?”
Jun Hyuk recalled New York Philharmonic’s Maestro Dimitri Carras. He had surprised Jun Hyuk by using the method of being objective to prepare the Inferno performance.
Jun Hyuk does not have time to tune the singers individually. He had thought of Dimitri Carras when he was thinking of how to tune these expressive people in one go.
When Laura sang the song herself, the tension she had felt was excessive. It had been to the point where her voice was crawling. However, Jun Hyuk watched the vocalists’ expressions and controlled the tempo and strength of the piano accompaniment to maintain the emotion he desired.
After a few practices, the singers were slowly tuned into the way Jun Hyuk wanted.