The Korea Herald


[Herald Review] Musical 'Rachmaninoff' bridges gaps between audience and classical music

By Park Ga-young

Published : May 3, 2023 - 17:31

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Korean original musical Korean original musical "Rachmaninoff" (HJ Culture)

People often overlook the fact that even the most talented musicians are still human beings, and we tend to remember only their most notable accomplishments. The naming of classical music pieces labeled with vital information such as the form, key and chronological order in which they were composed is not enough to convey the stories behind their masterpieces. Only those with a great curiosity and the willingness to explore beyond these labels will ever discover the stories of their creation.

For instance, why did Rachmaninoff write Symphony No. 1 at the age of 22 and what happened after it premiered? What went through his mind at the time? Why did it take eight years for him to write Symphony No. 2? And what happened to the piece?

Answers to these questions might add another colorful layer to the experience of listening to Rachmaninoff’s music, and that’s exactly what "Rachmaninoff," the South Korean original musical, does.

With only two actors, the 100-minute musical shows the composer’s three-year struggle with depression and writer's block after his first symphony received harsh reviews, as well as his recovery after meeting physician and psychiatrist Nikolai Dahl. Dahl, a witty character, provides positive affirmations and helps Rachmaninoff regain his sense of creativity and self-worth.

Korean original musical Korean original musical "Rachmaninoff " features a pianist and a quintet. (HJ Culture)

The musical numbers of the production, based on the composer’s melodies and reborn through composer Lee Jin-wook and Kim Bo-ram, are also a major highlight.

While it can be challenging to blend classical melodies with modern lyrics successfully, the songs in the musical "Rachmaninoff" are a seamless and captivating fusion of music and lyrics.

The string quintet and one piano might be limited in generating the same level of musical depth and complexity as a full symphony orchestra when they perform Symphony No. 1 in D minor Op. 13 or Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18. Nevertheless, it is interesting to see the ensemble on the stage, rather than in the orchestral pit.

The musical can help reduce barriers to classical music by creating connections among the audience, the composer and his music, in turn bridging the gaps among them.

"Rachmaninoff," which ended its Seoul run at Theater Yong, located at the National Museum of Korea on April 22, will embark on a tour of the southeastern region of the country, with shows in Pohang on April 28 and 29 and in Busan from May 5 to 7.

The musical will be heading overseas in October to be staged at the new Taipei Performing Arts Center in Taiwan, with shows scheduled from Oct. 13 to 22.