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In Maazel’s footsteps, another maestro visits North Korea

Alexander Liebreich, a conductor who works in Munich and Katowice, is a repetitive visitor to Pyongyang. He has been telling the BBC about his latest visit, with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, in November. He talks up the situation in the country, noting improvements in living standards and general outlook since his previous trip in 2006. He was able, he says, to walk around alone and apparently unwatched.

Liebereich is also director of the Tongyeong International Music Festival in South Korea.

Read what he has to say here.

Around the time of Liebereich’s visit, North Korea launched another rocket with nuclear potential and appealed for food aid for iuts starving citizens. The value of musical tourism to this pariah state remains highly questionable. No thaw resulted from the much vaunted 2008 trip by Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic.


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  1. Erik Voermans says:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    His name is Alexander Liebreich. And he’s German. Otherwise no complaints. Keep up the good work.

  2. One word: DISGUSTING

    we have spent the last couple of days (or rather weeks) discussing the behaviour of individuals and groups during the 1930′, 1940′s and later, and here we have somebody who visits – voluntarily! – what may euphemistically be referred to as hell on earth.
    I already thought Maazel’s visit the very definition of tastelessness (they actually had a banquet in a country where hundreds of thousands of people starved to death!!!), but to have a German doing it is quite simply the pits.
    I’m sorry that my use of language may seem crude, but to have people visting a country that boasts torture camps and mass executions and a mad Führer-cult and then come home talking up such a country makes me gag.
    I can accept (sometimes with the use of Valium and Xanax, but still) almost – I say ALMOST – every excuse given for swimming with the tide in a dictatorship (I myself being very far from hero material), but to have tax-funded artists (you know the guys fighting against dictatorships and for free speech etc. etc.) again and again visiting such hell holes reflects badly on them, western culture and just gives added material to those guys who say that ‘artists’ will do anything for applause.
    G.B. Shaw visited the Ukraine diring the Stalin famines and told people that he had never eaten so well, Jörg Immendorf defended Mao, Satre defended ‘freedom of speech’ in the USSR, Harry Belafonte sang for Honecker and Luise Rinser adored Kim Il Sung. Oh yes, and Peter Handke defended Milosevic, Konstantin Wecker went to Hussain’s Iraq to sing and Günther Grass writes anti-s.. (sorry anti-zionist) poetry.
    Great. And we spend weeks discussing the Vienna Phil?
    What have we learned from history? Nothing!
    Sixty years ago there was no CNN, internet or BBC. People could say “oh I did’t know that!” – what will be our excuse????
    “I was focusing on Kim Kardashian’s baby”?! Or that we were simply too stupid, or that we believed in the importance of dialogue!? With North Korea???
    Meanwhile Germany is selling cranes to Iran (currently planning Holocaust 2.0), so that homosexuals there can be hanged in public.
    Again: what will our excuse be??????
    But after everything happened we can go back to building monuments to the dead – only this time it will be us who will get asked why we hadn’t done anything.

    God, we are pathetic

    interesting reading material:

  3. “He was able, he says, to walk around alone and apparently unwatched.”

    …in Pyongyang, which is a showcase for the dictatorship and whose residents are chosen by the government. I don’t doubt that Pyongyang looks more lively than it used to, but that doesn’t tell you anything about what’s going on in the rest of the country.

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