Ahn Eak-tai

Ahn Eak-tai (1906 – 1965) 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.[1] Ahn composed the Aegukga, now the national anthem of South Korea, Korean Dance,[2] Nongae,[2] and the Symphonic Fantasy Korea. His unpublished works, some of which having been discovered recently, include Poema Synfonic ‘Mallorca, Lo Pi Formentor, and The Death of Emperor Gojong.[2]

Ahn Eak-tai was born in the northern part of the Korean peninsula during the Japanese occupation, and attended a school staffed by Catholic missionaries. There he developed interest in music as he played trumpet in the school orchestra. He received higher education from the Kunitachi Music School in Japan, and at the University of Cincinnati, and the Curtis Institute of Music in the United States during the Great Depression. Ahn continued his study at Vienna under Bernhard Paumgartner, and under Professor Kodai at the University of Budapest 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. Escalation of the 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 Philadelphia Orchestra. Then, in 1955, Ahn returned to South Korea, and conducted the Seoul Philharmonic until his death.