The New York Philharmonic was betting that its rendition of the Korean folk song "Arirang" would be the emotional climax to its historic concert here last night. Instead, the audience created a climax of its own.
As orchestra members finished the encore and stood to leave the stage, the crowd of 1,400 clapped more and more loudly. A few of them waved. The Philharmonic's trombone and trumpet players did, too.
With that spark, the North Koreans burst into cheering and waving, from the front rows to the top balcony. The ovation continued for another five minutes.
Backstage later, some musicians were in tears. The ovation "sent us into orbit," said music director Lorin Maazel. He said he interpreted the audience as saying, "We understand the gesture of coming here. It could not have been easy for you. We appreciate that you did."
- Evan Ramstad and Peter Landers for the Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2008.