• Find us on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Follow us on Instagram
  • View Our YouTube Channel
  • Listen on Spotify
  • View our scores on nkoda

June brings an Unsuk Chin focus at the Aldeburgh Festival, including the UK premiere of Alaraph for orchestra, and the culmination of her season-long feature in Amsterdam with the Dutch premiere of Alice in Wonderland in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series.

Unsuk Chin is featured musician at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, with concerts including the UK premiere of Alaraph for orchestra and performances of the Cello Concerto with Alban Gerhardt, the complete Piano Etudes shared between Rolf Hind and Joseph Havlat, and Nulla est finis sung by Tenebrae (10-22 June). The selection demonstrates the immense range of Chin’s output, from solo miniatures to large-scale symphonic works.

The Aldeburgh performance of Alaraph, composed by Chin in 2022, features the Royal Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by Roderick Cox at Snape Maltings on 22 June. This follows performances by commissioners the Basel Symphony Orchestra, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra and the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series, with the US premiere by the San Francisco Symphony scheduled on 16 May and Radio France’s Orchestre National de France presenting the work next season.

The title Alaraph is drawn from cosmology, while Chin’s subtitle Ritus des Herzschlags (Ritual of the Heartbeats) references musical rhythm. The composer describes how two images were especially important when composing the score:

“Firstly, I was drawn to the concept of the so-called ‘heartbeat stars’ with their regular pulsation. This is also something the title refers to: ‘Alaraph’ is one of the so-called ‘heartbeat stars.’ These are pulsating variable binary star systems in eccentric orbits with vibrations caused by tidal forces. The term refers to the following phenomenon: the star’s light curve is similar to what a heartbeat looks like through an electrocardiogram when its brightness is mapped over time.”

“The second crucial image depicted certain aspects of Korean traditional music, both the 'static' courtly ritual music and the lively folk music. I didn't use these in the form of quotations but alluded to them distantly in the work's gestures and structure in a compressed and highly stylized manner.”

Chin’s extraordinary Cello Concerto is performed at the Aldeburgh Festival by Alban Gerhardt with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth on 20 June. The work was composed in 2008 for Gerhardt and, despite having something of a reputation as one of the hardest in the modern repertoire, has received over 50 performances to date, with more than 30 of these featuring the German cellist. Two recordings are available, both with Gerhardt as soloist and Myung-Whun Chung as conductor: with the Seoul Philharmonic dating from 2014 and with the Berlin Philharmonic (both audio and video) as part of the recently released box devoted to the music of Unsuk Chin. The Cello Concerto is published this month in study score format for the first time by Boosey & Hawkes in the prestigious Hawkes Pocket Score series (979-0-060-13006-9).

Completing the Unsuk Chin repertoire at the Aldeburgh Festival, the composer’s collection of six Piano Etudes, a worthy successor to the set by her teacher Ligeti, is shared across two concerts at the Britten Studio by Joseph Havlat (Nos.3, 4 and 5) on 10 June and by Rolf Hind (Nos.1, 2 and 6) on 20 June. Ely Cathedral provides an arching Gothic venue for the first UK performance of Chin’s Nulla est finis, composed as a prelude to Tallis’s celebrated 40-part motet Spem in alium, sung by Tenebrae under Nigel Short on 12 June.

> Unsuk Chin at the Aldeburgh Festival

The large-scale Unsuk Chin feature in Amsterdam, which has stretched across the 2023/24 season, ends in spectacular fashion on 1 June with the Dutch premiere of Alice in Wonderland closing the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series at the Concertgebouw. This concert performance of Chin’s surreal version of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice tales, mixing dark humour with brilliant orchestration, features the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic conducted by Markus Stenz. The starry cast sees Gloria Rehm in the title role, with vocalists also including Scott Hendricks at the Mad Hatter, Andrew Watts as the White Rabbit and Heidi Melton as the Queen of Hearts.

Highlights of the ZaterdagMatinee series this season have included Chin’s Piano Concerto with Sunwook Kim, Asko|Schönberg in Graffiti and Gougalon and the Dutch premiere of Alaraph conducted by Kent Nagano.

> Alice in Wonderland in Amsterdam

Unsuk Chin is currently working on her second opera The Dark Side of the Moon, recently announced by the Hamburg State Opera for premiere in May 2025. The stagework draws inspiration from the life and work of the legendary physicist Wolfgang Pauli and his relationship with the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, providing material for a Faustian opera for the 21st century.

>  Further information on Work: Alaraph ‘Ritus des Herzschlags’

Photo: Priska Ketterer

>  News Search

Stay updated on the latest composer news and publications