December 13, 2018
The dominance of chamber music in the 20th century is an ideological fiction. It is largely explained by an imbalance in performance practice, which persistently ignores countless important orchestral works. This is also the case with Isang Yun (1917-95), whose catalogue lists approximately the same number of large and small-format works; however, if one were to count the bars, he would have to be seen primarily as an orchestral composer. The double CD reflects the relationship fairly accurately: It offers three orchestral works (about 90 minutes in total) and four solo pieces (about 60 minutes in total). And it shows a corresponding qualitative weighting, since the First Violin Concerto (1981) and above all the Cello Concerto (1976) are the much stronger, more impressive creations, for which the description “avant-garde” would be an insult.
Yun’s music is saturated with tradition, it is profound, expressive and extremely individual. The Cello Concerto, one of the greatest contributions to this genre and once recorded by world premiere soloist Siegfried Palm in a breathtakingly circus-like, delirious manner, here undergoes a precisely controlled interpretation. There is a captivating Frankfurt version of the more lyrical violin concerto with world premiere soloist Akiko Tatsumi; the new Linz recording, on the other hand, abstains from any vehemence and cultivates a more elegant, softer tone.
Such interpretational breadth can only be observed in a few prominent contemporaries of Yun’s; it alone confirms the outstanding rank of the Berlin composer from Korea. For many of his students and instrumentalists who were friends with him, this seal of quality certainly also applies to chamber music – but there is an undeniable difference in the aesthetics of effect, and not only because of the tonal colouring.
BY: Volker Tarnow