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the forgotten violin concertos – part 8: a North Korean violin concerto

April 22, 2016, 8:52 AM · For many years I am researching about the violin concertos of the 20th century. In my encyclopedia „The 20th century violin concertante“ (available free of charge here) I list nearly 13'000 compositions from all over the world. It is obvious that these compositions span a wide area of different characteristics, and one is the origin of the violin concerto, i.e. the nationality of the composer.

There are some countries with a long tradition of western classical music. Several of these countries made efforts to preserve this music and make it (or at least the information about its existence) accessible to the public. Germany is one of these countries and as a German myself it is no surprise that the biggest part of works in my book is by Germans (more than 1'500 compositions).
For other countries the history of classical music did not last that long and/or it was more difficult for me to find information due to language barriers and no music information centers. For example I could just find a handful of compositions for violin concertante by Bolivian or Egyptian composers. For several countries (mainly from Africa and Asia) I could not find a single composition.

It is hardly surprising that North Korea is such a country where I could not find any violin concerto. That changed one day when I rummaged in the archives of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) radio archive. I stumbled upon a „violin concerto on folk themes“ by a composer called Chek Pak Man . There was no recording date given and the performers were a „State Philharmonic Orchestra“ under conductor „Jen Kim Din“ and violinist „Pjak Ko San“.
Due to the strong connection between the socialists states during the time of existence of the GDR, I assumed that the composer came from a country of the „Eastern bloc“. The sounding of the names pointed to Korea. I ran different internet searches for the composer and performer names, tried to translate them into Korean language and finally wrote a letter to the North Korean embassy in Germany – no matches, no responses.

Finally I located one single reference to one of the persons: The Estonian ministry of culture published a newspaper called „Sirp ja Vasar“ from 1940 to 1989. The issue from 04. April 1958 showed an article about the Tchaikovsky Violin Competition in Moscow. The winners were mentioned and finally the violinists that received a certificate of honour: „Georgi Badev (Bulgaria), Pjak Ko San (Korea), Jang Bingsung (China), Ling Ke-hang (China) and Wilfred Leman (Great Britain)“. So it seems very likely that Pjak Ko San is a North Korean violinist and he surely performed with a North Korean orchestra a North Korean composition.

So there it finally is - the first (?) and only (?) North Korean violin concerto:

Chek Pak Man: Concerto for violin and orchestra on folk themes

I still do not know anything about Chek Pak Man, so if you know more about him (biography, work list, scores??) or on the violinist Pjak Ko San I would be delighted if you drop me a line via my website or just below in the comments to this article.

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