Diverse lush and enchanting soundworlds
R. Hutchinson | a world ruled by fossil fuels and fossil minds | 05/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unsuk Chin left Seoul to began her studies with Ligeti in 1985, and the earliest of the four compositions on this DG 20/21 disc is from 1991/1993 -- nonetheless, we can consider her to be a new voice, given that this is her first recording. And what a voice! Each of these pieces is superb, and each is unique. With the Ensemble Intercontemporain as performers, this is avant classical music of the highest order.
"Akrostichon-Wortspiel" (Acrostic Wordplay -- 1991/1993 -- 15'48) features soprano vocals and ensemble. Playful in a way reminiscent of Ligeti, the vocals are unintelligible syllables extracted from Lewis Carroll and Michael Ende. "Fantasie mecanique" (1994 -- 12'37) for a quintet of trumpet, trombone, piano and two percussionists is a fast, rhythmic work which culminates in the interweaving of 7 different metres in a dense polyrhythm. "Xi" (1998 -- 22'48) is an electro-acoustic work which "develops organically from a set of primordial cells (xi -- Korean for the smallest unit, or the origin of all things) in the form of a single vast arc." IRCAM's technology is used to produce very organic-sounding results, more similar to Murail than Boulez. The "Double Concerto" (2002 -- 20'39) for prepared piano, percussion and ensemble, is a restless, mysterious piece with darting piano. The last two pieces strongly bear out Chin's assertion that she "feels a great deal of affinity with non-European musical cultures...I always try to introduce a completely different colour...based on my experience of non-European music." While "Xi" invokes Xenakis, it nonetheless is more spacious, more horizontal -- drifting. The Asian perspective makes itself felt within the framework of the European avant-garde.
It often seems these days that the post-serialist avant-garde is slipping into the past as various tonal "postmodern" musics have gained larger audiences, so I am quite happy to hear the music of Unsuk Chin, proudly continuing the tradition of Berio, Boulez, Carter, Ligeti, Nono and Xenakis. She joins Kaija Saariaho as a leading woman composer in contemporary music. I hope her "Violin Concerto," winner of the 2004 Grawemeyer Award, is being recorded as I write.
If you enjoy creative, complex, innovative modern music, you should hear this music of Unsuk Chin!"
A Bright and Shining Light
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unsuk Chin (born Korea 1961) is rapidly becoming one of the most original contemporary composers on the scene today. In a world that likes to classify for comfort, Chin's creations can be compared to those of Thomas Ades, Ligeti, and Salonen in that she expands the aural vocabulary of both instrumentalists and vocalists. She pairs strange combinations of ensembles to fanciful texts of gibberish keeping her works full of air and humor. 'My music is a reflection of my dreams' she states, and her dreams may just be the most original forays into the play of light and floating colors that coalesce into fluid forms!
By far the most frequently performed of her works is the 'Akrostichon-Wortspiel, 7 scenes from fairy tales for soprano & orchestra' performed here with soprano Piia Komsi with Kazushi Ono conducting the InterContemporain Ensemble. It is a signature work of Chin, plying the extremes of writing for the voice with the exceptional palette of the orchestra. At a recent LA Philharmonic concert her 'Cantatrix Sopranica' (soprano voice) was given its US Premiere and it owes its roots to this earlier work. The current work employs two sopranos and a countertenor together with a battery of percussionists, keyboards, and the usual orchestral components to humorously explore the soprano voice - warm up, diva turns, texts of nonsense syllables, instruments imitating voices and voices imitating instruments. The visual aspect of Chin's music enhances the joy as she asks the performers to interact as though an opera were being staged. The result in this new work is a polished masterpiece that hopefully will soon be added to the recorded repertoire. The audience response was passionately wild!
Chin's other works on this splendid CD are of equal fascination: the 'Fantaisie m?canique, for 5 instrumentalists' (Patrick Davin conducts this one), 'Xi, for electronic ensemble' (with David Robertson conducting), and 'Double Concerto for piano, percussion & ensemble' (Samuel Favre and Dimitri Vassilakis are the adroit soloists and the conductor is Stefan Asbury).
One of the aspects of Chin's compositions is that they are not only accessible and rich in sonorous beauty, but they also have a sense of humor, something missing in most new works - except perhaps for Salonen and Adams and Knussen! Highly Recommended recording. We will be hearing much, much more about this bright star. Grady Harp, May 06
Fernando Espino | El Salvador | 01/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"O.K. Lets put it simple, whoever this Unsuk Chin is, she is a genius. This album is a masterpiece. It contains some of the most interesting avantgarde compositions of the last 15 years.
This music will simply blow your mind away. If you are already familiar with Schoenberg and Cage (which I think you are) and are an open minded avantgarde music listener, and believe in the freedom of music stylistics of today, then.... what are you waiting for. Buy this album now! You won't be dissapointed."