Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Lively Female Composer – Unsuk Chin

     Unsuk Chin, from South Korea, is an active and vivid composer in 20th-century music. Ms. Chin won several international prizes of composition in her early 20s when she studied at Seoul National University. To continue her studies, she moved to Hamburg, where she worked with Gyorgy Ligeti in 1985. After finishing her studies, she becomes a freelance composer and has won remarkable prizes, including the Grawemeyer Award in 2004, the Arnold Schoenberg Prize in 2005 and the Music Composition Prize of the Prince Pierre Foundation in 2010.

        “I am attracted by virtuosity,” Ms. Chin said. As a composer, she admires performer’s enthusiasm and virtuosity and challenges their boundaries. “Pushing the limits of your possibilities, not knowing whether you can do it – and then somehow succeeding. I ask every bit as much from a soloist.” This can be identified by her instrumental concerto works. Take for example Ms. Chin’s Su for sheng and orchestra, which was recently published on the Deutsche Grammophon label. It shows the colorful variety of harmony, complicated performance skill, and avant-grade music. The premiere of this concerto was performed by Wu Wei, who plays the sheng, a Chinese mouth organ, and showcased a series of complex polyphonic melodies in the beginning.

The video of Su for Sheng and Orchestra, performed by Wu Wei and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra:

        Even though Ms Chin has an Eastern background and studied in Berlin for a long time, she rejected to blend Eastern and Western traditions or take the ethnic and exotic element to write her music. “It was much easier to get ahead like that, but I did not want that,” she said. Apart from Su for Sheng and Orchestra, her celebrated works consist of her ludicrous and fantastic opera Alice in Wonderland, the Clarinet Concerto, the Violin Concerto, which won the Grawemeyer Award, the Piano Concerto, and the Cello Concerto.

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