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Unsuk Chin's Rocaná a knockout premier

Unsuk Chin’s newest orchestral work, Rocaná, saw premiere performances in Montréal, New York City, and Chicago through the months of March and April. The Sanskrit title (pronounced ro-CHA-na) means "room of light," a reference to Chin's exploration of the relationship between light and sound waves.

The work was co-commissioned by the Bayerische Staatsoper, Seoul Philharmonic and the Beijing Music Festival, and performances are scheduled for Beijing on 4 October 2008 with the China Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Peter Ruzicka, and in Munich on 2 March 2009 with the Bayerisches Staatsorchester and Kent Nagano.

The New York Times raved: “…the piece is a knockout. It begins with a gnarly, clattering, explosion; call it the Little Bang. Then comes a pattern of background harmonies, always simmering, eerily quiet and pervasive. But throughout the work, jolts of energy keep happening: leaping lines, ominous 12-tonish themes that pierce the tranquil background buzz, outbursts of wailing brasses and metallic strings that come at you like a musical flamethrower. The piece might be described as a response to Ives’s ‘Unanswered Question.’”

The Chicago Tribune added: “…Chin has crafted as a field of unquiet aural dreams.”
“She is fascinated by the volatility of orchestral sounds and how they evolve into other, seemingly unrelated musical events, traveling in waves as light does. Her huge orchestral palette is laced with all manner of percussion, including Japanese temple bells and a xylophone of stones. At times, she employs it as sparingly as a neo-pointillist painter; at other times, violent chords ricochet around the brasses, turning the ensemble into a mechanistic juggernaut.

“Her orchestral writing shows the coloristic acuteness and fineness of mind that marks the music of her former teacher, the late, great Gyorgy Ligeti. The ultramodernist Chin would rather keep our ears in a state of uneasy expectation than seduce them with easy sounds. Yet there's a kind of crazed logic in how she puts those sounds together. The tightly structured anarchy of "Rocana" held my attention.”

>  Further information on Work: Rocaná

Photo: Eric Richmond

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