The Double Concerto is part of the series of concertante works which the composer started in 1972 with the Konzertante Figuren. In the Double Concerto, Yun goes back to a Korean fairy-tale: the harping princess falls in love with the shawm-playing cowherd. The king, annoyed about a choice which is at discord with her social class, bans both of them as stars to the opposite ends of the Galaxy. As an only favour they are allowed to meet once a year, on July 7th, in the middle of the Galaxy. The form corresponds to the narrated subject, and follows principles of succession rather than of development. According to European form categories, the piece evolves the principle of several movements in a one-movement form, like Franz Liszt in his symphonic poems. It could be characterized like this: A rather vivid first movement is followed by a slow movement that merges into the fast third movement. It opens out to a solo cadenza of the harp which, however, does not yet sign the end of the composition, because additionally a "Duo" of the solo instruments is inserted into the third movement.
The first part can roughly be divided into two sections (which are themselves organized in two parts) and starts with the presentation of the court. The introduction chord of the brasses is not only meant as an opening, but also aims at the inhumane severity of the Royal court or the society. The harp belongs to the sphere of the court, and the oboe answers "von fern" (from far). This process of the first meeting is repeated in a more intense form—and this time, the oboe answers from "nah" (near). In the following part, the active wooing of the oboe dominates, being answered in the first phase mainly by strings and woodwind, in the second by the harp.
The two-piece slow movement, a solo episode, expresses the joyous encounter of the lovers. Here, the solo instruments are accompanied by the orchestra oboe in an agitated first phase, and by the violoncello and the percussion section in the second. These accompanists are, as the composer says, "sympathisers of the Court", among which the orchestra oboe symbolizes the bird Phoenix.
The following Tutti drifts jubilantly towards the harp cadenza. Strings and woodwind "paint" the flight of the magpies that escort the loving couple, while the admonishing objections of the brass cannot prevail. During an orchestra intermezzo which on the whole is turbulent the brasses are supposed to remind us of the fact that the lovers will have to part. The "Duo", this time in the sequence calm–agitated, presents the farewell scene. A connecting intermezzo drives towards the end that is marked by the return of the introducting chord of the brasses.
The subject matter of the composition relates to the real phenomenon of the moult: In Korea there aren't hardly any magpies to be seen on the days before July 7th, and when they come back after the 7th, they have lost their feathers. On this occasion, children are told the fairy-tale of the stars: the magpies were on their way to unite the lovers and lost a few feathers at this hard labour. Choosing this subject, Isang Yun means to express more than just this story: He wants to remind us of the division of Korea in 1945, decided by foreign powers. The sky grants the favour of reunification at least once a year, whereas the negotiations in Korea have remained without success until now.
Walter-Wolfgang Sparrer (translated by Frank Heibert)