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Unsuk Chin – Violin Concerto & Rocana

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Analekta
WORKS: Rocana; Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Viviane Hagner (violin); Montreal SO/Kent Nagano

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Unsuk Chin has established a significant international reputation over the past decade or so. She grew up in Korea, but has lived in Germany for more than 20 years; the influence of her teacher Ligeti is apparent not so much in any tangible sonic way, but through her non-doctrinaire approach to composing.

These two works, captured live, provide an excellent introduction to her music. Rocana literally means ‘room of light’ and the orchestra reflects, refracts and distorts its material as if the sound is sent through combinations of prisms and mirrors. It is intended, and manages, to be a scintillating work, while not being the least bit showy.

The Violin Concerto hit the headlines in 2004 when it won for Chin the Grawemeyer Award. With musings around the instrument’s four strings providing the starting point to the first three of the four movements, there is a clear unity around which more unusual textures can circulate.

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It is not as startlingly original as the more recent Cello Concerto, but it is an absorbing and enjoyable work. Viviane Hagner captures its mixture of unpredictable lyricism and rhythmic incisiveness well, and Kent Nagano and his Montreal forces are committed advocates in both works. Christopher Dingle