Myung-Whun Chung began his musical career as a pianist, making his debut with the Seoul Philharmonic at the age of seven. In 1974 he won the second prize at the Tchaikovsky piano competition in Moscow. After his musical studies at the Mannes School and at the Juilliard School in New York, he became Carlo Maria Giulini’s assistant in 1979 at the Los Angeles Philharmonic and two years later he was named Associate Conductor.
He was Music Director of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1984 to 1990, Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Comunale of Florence from 1987 to 1992 and Music Director of the Opéra de Paris-Bastille from 1989 to 1994. The year 2000 marked his return to Paris as Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. His love for Italy has been at the basis of his extensive work in that country for many years, including, from 1997 to 2005, his position as Principal Conductor of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome. In Germany, he became Principal Guest Conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden at the beginning of the 2012/13 season, the first conductor to hold the post in the history of the orchestra. Outside Europe, he has been increasingly committed to musical and social causes in Asia through his role as Music Advisor of the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and, from 2006, Music Director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.
He has conducted virtually all the world’s leading orchestras, including the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic, the Concertgebouworkest, all the major London and Parisian Orchestras, Filharmonica della Scala, Bayerische Rundfunk, Dresden Staatskapelle, the Boston and Chicago Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras.
An exclusive recording artist for Deutsche Grammophon since 1990, many of his numerous recordings have won international prizes and awards. These include Messiaen's Turangalîla Symphony and Eclairs sur l’Au-Delà, Verdi's Otello, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth with the Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille; a series of Dvorák's symphonies and serenades with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and a series dedicated to the great sacred music with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, including the award-winning recording of Duruflé’s and Fauré’s Requiems with Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel. Recent releases include Messiaen’s La transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ and Des Canyons aux étoiles with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France as well as works by Debussy and Ravel with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.
Myung-Whun Chung has been the recipient of many honours and prizes for his artistic work, including the Premio Abbiati and the Arturo Toscanini prize in Italy and the Légion d’Honneur (1992) in France; in 1991, the Association of French Theatres and Music Critics named him ‘Artist of the Year’ and in 1995 he won the ‘Victoire de la Musique’ prize three times. He was named a Commandeur dans l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2011.
Deeply sensitive to humanitarian and ecological problems of our age, Myung-Whun Chung has devoted an important part of his life to these causes. In 1994 he launched a series of musical and environmental projects in Korea for youth. He served as Ambassador for the Drug Control Program at the United Nations (UNDCP); in 1995, he was named ‘Man of the year’ by UNESCO and also ‘Most Distinguished Personality’ by the Korean press association. In 1996, he received the ‘Kumkuan’, the highest cultural award of the Korean government for his contribution to Korean musical life. Chung now serves as Honorary Cultural Ambassador for Korea, the first in the Korean government’s history. In 2008, he was designated the first conductor named as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).