1906 – 1965
Who was Ahn Eak-tai?
Ahn Eak-tai was a Korean classical composer and conductor. He conducted numerous major orchestras across Europe, including the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Rome Philharmonic Orchestra. Ahn composed the Aegukga, now the national anthem of South Korea, Korean Dance, Nongae, and the Symphonic Fantasy Korea. His unpublished works, some of which have been discovered recently, include Poema Synfonic ‘Mallorca, Lo Pi Formentor, and The Death of Emperor Gojong.
Ahn Eak-tai was born in the northern part of the Korean peninsula just before the Colonial Era, and attended a school staffed by Catholic missionaries. There he developed an interest in music as he played a trumpet in the school orchestra. He received his higher education from the Kunitachi Music School in Japan, at the University of Cincinnati, and at the Curtis Institute of Music in the United States during the Great Depression. Ahn continued his study at Vienna under Bernhard Paumgartner, and under Zoltán Kodály at the Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary. Upon a second visit to Vienna, Ahn received assistance from Richard Strauss to bring Symphonic Fantasy Korea to near completion. Beginning with a concert in Budapest, Ahn spent the next five years conducting in Europe. The escalation of World War II brought Ahn to Spain, where he met Lolita Talavera, his future wife. After their marriage in 1946, the two moved to the United States, where Ahn conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra. Then, in 1955, Ahn returned to South Korea, and conducted the Seoul Philharmonic until his death.