Composer Unsuk Chin © Marion Kalter / akg images
The Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s concerto “Šu” for the sheng virtuoso Wu Wei and orchestra meets Gustav Mahler’s setting of Hans Bethge’s cycle of free adaptations of Chinese poems: “Das Lied von der Erde”, that Bruno Walter called “one single, passionate, bitter, renunciatory and benedictive sound of farewell”: a work that was never performed during the composer’s lifetime.
A glowing interplay of colours in which iridescent bands of sound hover and weave their way between the individual voices: Unsuk Chin has repeatedly shown a remarkable feeling for colours and sounds in works that are often bursting with humour, at times appear surreal and yet always remain compelling. Although the Korean composer has been inspired by the contrary spheres of European and Asian musical culture, she has developed an equally personal and plural style of composition that has thrilled audiences all over the world. She wrote the concerto “Šu” for the sheng virtuoso Wu Wei, which sometimes reminds the listener of electronic sounds, employing every aspect of the Chinese wind instrument (which has been radically modernized with a key mechanism). In the programme that Robin Ticciati conducts with the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, it is followed after the interval by Gustav Mahler’s “Das Lied von der Erde” (The Song of the Earth), that focuses on the finite nature of human existence. This work was inspired by Hans Bethge’s collection “Die chinesische Flöte” (The Chinese Flute): an anthology of free adaptations of Chinese poems, though Mahler refrained from any form of conspicuous exoticism. At most the passages with chamber ensemble-like instrumentation evoke memories of the fine brushstrokes of Chinese ink drawings. Its longest movement is the finale, entitled “Abschied” (Farewell) which represents “a world drunk on eternal love and life”, building to a passionate ecstasy, before the music ethereally fades away amid arpeggios on the celeste, harp and mandolin.
Unsuk Chin (*1961)
Concerto for sheng and orchestra (2009, rev. 2010)
Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911)
Das Lied von der Erde
Symphony for tenor and alto (or baritone) and orchestra (1908/1909)
A Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin event in cooperation with Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin
The concerts with contemporary works are part of the contemporary music month of the field notes initiative.