I hope you all have been following the amazing story going on in North Korea as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra made a historic two-day visit to Pyongyang.
I was surprised to hear Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, herself a classically trained pianist, offer a cool assessment recently by saying, "I don't think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea."
The truth is, it is big.
Everyone knows that relations between the United States and North Korea have been "cold," but I was surprised to read Thomas Omestad observation in his article for U.S. News and World Report:
The North Koreans appeared intent on welcoming the symphony and its accompanying entourage—a group totaling nearly 300, making it the largest group of Americans to visit Pyongyang since the U.S. Army briefly occupied the city in the Korean War.It's kind of cool to think this group of musicians, staff, benefactors, and journalists is the largest group of American to visit Pyongyang. It's even cooler that the fundraisers at the Orchestra were able to count of one cool donor to make it happen.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal profiled the Japanese-born countess, Lady Yoko Nagae Ceschina - the donor who sponsored the cost of the trip.
Mrs. Ceschina lives in a mansion on the banks of Venice's Grand Canal but she spends much of her time in concert halls in St. Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, London and New York. At age 75, she keeps the frenetic schedule of a musician on tour, flying around the world to hear her favorite soloists. Occasionally she surprises performers by attending a concert in Chicago one evening and New York the next.Go here to read more of this excellent story.
"Music is more than a luxury for her; it's like vitamins," says Mr. Vengerov, 33, who performs with many of the world's major orchestras, playing the Stradivarius violin that Mrs. Ceschina gave him. "She always says to me after a concert, 'Maxim, I feel so much better now. I was feeling tired, and now I feel I am alive.' "
Mrs. Ceschina is petite woman with swept-back brown-and-gray hair and a round, youthful face. An accomplished harp player, she often turns up at concerts wearing a turtleneck, blazer and large, tinted glasses. She says she is funding the concert with faith that music can succeed where words and diplomacy fail. "I hope that this will lead to some good will," she says in an interview at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. "Even if I'm criticized, I believe in my position."