Unsuk Chin (b. 1961) is a decorated composer and an important figure on the international scene. But even though she’s won the prestigious Grawemeyer Prize, one could still argue that she isn’t programmed nearly enough as yet in the United States. I was very taken with the Ensemble Intercontemporain’s 2009 performance of Akrostichon-Wortspiel at Alice Tully Hall. It sent me in search of scores and recordings to study. Sadly, I haven’t since had the opportunity to hear more of her work live. Fortunately, events this month in New York and Boston provide excellent opportunities for US listeners to become better acquainted with her beguiling and imaginative music.
The big event occurs up in Boston. Her Cello Concerto (2009) will receive its U.S. premiere with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the baton of conductor Susan Mälkki with cellist Alban Gerhardt on February 10-12, 2011.
Chin describes the work as “antithetical to (her) other concertos… While in my concertos for violin, piano and percussion I was seeking to merge a solo instrument into a virtuoso super-instrument, here it’s all about the competitive approach between cello and orchestra… In my cello writing, I often ask the soloist to become a kind of illusionist, disguising the nature of this instrument. However, I feel also strongly that the cello has a kind of intrinsic emotional character, which can’t be denied.”
Right on the heels of the concerto’s premiere, the Talea Ensemble and guest pianist Taka Kigawa will perform an Unsuk Chin Composer Portrait at New York’s Bohemian Hall on February 16, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. The concert includes selections from her Piano Etudes (1999), and the New York premieres of Chin’s ParaMetaString (1996), Allegro ma non troppo (1994), and Fantaisie Mécanique (1997). Ms. Chin will be present for the concert and featured in an onstage interview with Dr. Anthony Cheung, Talea’s Artistic Director.