If this blog mentions Korea, it is probably to
discuss the relative merits of KAIST, SNU, Yonsei. POSTECH and KU, and of course the hideous cost of Korean higher education. But last night New Malden,
the Koreatown of London, must have been deserted as Unsuk Chin’s violin concerto was performed by Viviane Hagner and the Philharmonia at London’s South Bank.
Like her cello concerto, premiered at a Prom I was at two years ago, this concerto makes the soloist work hard. Gone are the Mozartian days when she could sit around for about a third of the time, watching the orchestra doing its stuff.
Hagner and her 1717 Stradivarius were in action more or less from start to finish.
It’s an astounding work, building from the start with immense tension as the orchestra comes in gradually from across the stage. While it is no contender for the whistle test, it shares the lyrical qualities of the cello concerto and perhaps for this reason is more of a repertoire fixture than most modern concertos. Hagner has already recorded it with Kent Nagano, but if you possibly can, get a video. Seeing the orchestra and soloist in action makes it all a lot clearer. It’s unique and novel, but maybe Sibelius’s bigger symphonies and of course his own violin concerto are some
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sort of precedent.
Meantime Chin is now on the guest list for my fantasy dinner party. I’d love to get some idea of how that fantastic density of ideas gets developed, and then turned into a finished work of such texture.
And for those of you who care about these things, Chin was at SNU but perhaps found the Technical University of Berlin more formative, and still lives in Berlin. She seems to like London as this is the second big ovation I have seen her take here.