Born in Seoul and resident in Berlin, Unsuk Chin has already
made quite a name for herself thanks to a number of works that
regularly featured in many festivals throughout the world. Her
Cello Concerto has been premiered during the 2009 BBC Proms.
A fairly recent DG release that I have still to hear has brought
her music to a wider audience, and this disc from the Canadian
label Analekta will undoubtedly enrich one’s appreciation
of her often subtle and beautiful music.
The Violin Concerto
is a substantial work in four movements
consisting of an overture, a slow movement, a Scherzo and a Finale
recalling earlier material. The soloist’s part is far from
easy but, as in a number of recent and not-so-recent concertos
- the soloist is much more a primus inter pares
competing outsider. The solo part is thus clearly part of the
whole fabric in which the orchestra often functions as a multi-voiced
resonating box. The first movement opens rather hesitantly with
the violin’s repeated gestures. The music opens out and
becomes considerably more animated and capricious, particularly
so in the last stages of the movement. The second movement opens
with a beautiful song-like theme played by the soloist accompanied
by percussion and plucked strings. This leads into a more dramatic
section recalling parts of the opening movement. A varied restatement
of the opening brings the movement to its ethereal close. There
follows a short, capricious Scherzo. The music opening the Finale
seems to resume where the Scherzo left off; but it soon changes
course before restating parts of the earlier material to bring
the work full circle on a final unresolved musing by the soloist.
Chin’s Violin Concerto is a beautiful work with a refined
poetic feel and with often subtly shaded scoring that repays
repeated hearings. Viviane Hagner possesses both the technique
and the musicality to render Chin’s poetic vision to the
best possible advantage.
Appropriately enough the music of the orchestral work Rocaná
Sanskrit word meaning “room of light”) suggests the
continuous interplay of light and shade on which the entire work
is based. The orchestral textures, too, constantly alternate
density and lightness as well as stasis and activity. In the
latter instance static sections are underpinned by much more
lightly scored activity, so that the music never really pauses
but flows along seamlessly. The overall impression left by Rocaná
that of a colourful, often refined and subtly scored kaleidoscope.
This is a work that definitely deserves to be heard more often
for this is contemporary music with a nice poetic feel that I
find endearing and attractive.
These performances are very fine indeed and totally committed.
Kent Nagano is the dedicatee of Rocaná
he gets wonderful support from the orchestra. These are live
recordings but the sound is quite good with very little audience
noise. My only regret about this otherwise desirable disc is
its shamefully short playing time. There was room for another
work by Chin.
Interview with Chin & Nagano on Youtube