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Unsuk Chin is awarded the world’s top composition prize for her Violin Concerto



Unsuk Chin has won the 2004 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, premiered in 2002. The Grawemeyer Award, worth $200,000, is awarded annually by the Grawemeyer Foundation for a work that makes an outstanding contribution to the field of musical composition. The prize announcement describes Chin's Violin Concerto as "a synthesis of glittering orchestration, rarefied sonorities, volatility of expression, musical puzzles and unexpected turns".

Unsuk Chin wrote of her reaction on winning the award:
"When I heard that I had won the Grawemeyer I was truly surprised and thrilled by the news, and for several days I could neither eat nor sleep. To put it simply, I couldn’t believe this had happened to me. To win the Grawemeyer Award is something every composer dreams of, but even in my wildest dreams I imagined that I would be waiting at least another 20 years. The reality is that this prize has changed my life as a composer, completely, and is a huge encouragement for my future creative development. I am honoured to receive the award and grateful for the Foundation's continuing support for contemporary composers."

Born in Seoul, South Korea, in 1961, Unsuk Chin attended Seoul National University specialising in piano and composition under Sukhi Kang. In 1985 she moved to Hamburg to study on a DAAD scholarship with György Ligeti, and settled in Berlin in 1988. She initially worked and composed at the Technical University during a period when her output remained relatively unknown outside electronic music circles. In 1994 she was talent-scouted by Boosey & Hawkes following successful performances of Acrostic-Wordplay (Akrostichon-Wortspiel), which led to the signing of an exclusive publishing agreement.

Since the mid-1990s Chin has attracted international recognition, with Acrostic-Wordplay receiving performances in 15 countries to date. Her works are now performed by the world's most prestigious ensembles and featured by leading conductors including Kent Nagano, George Benjamin and Sir Simon Rattle. Her growing reputation in Berlin led in 2001 to her appointment as composer-in-residence with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, and the culmination of this collaboration was the commissioning of the Violin Concerto. The work was premiered to public and critical acclaim in January 2002 with Viviane Hagner as soloist and the DSO conducted by Kent Nagano.

Chin's Violin Concerto, one of her most distinctive works, blends a highly individual contemporary soundworld with a traditional four-movement classical symphonic form. The challenging solo violin part was developed in close consultation with soloist Viviane Hagner, a young artist devoted to exploring the technical and expressive potential of the violin. Following its Berlin premiere last year, the concerto has been performed by the Seoul Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. On 20 February the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins gives the UK premiere at the Barbican with Viviane Hagner as soloist, and the concerto's US premiere is in view. The concerto is dedicated to Robin and Steve Kim.

Chin's future composition projects include a new work for two sopranos (the Komsi sisters), countertenor and ensemble, co-commissioned by the London Sinfonietta, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, St Pölten Festival (Austria), and the Ensemble Intercontemporain for premiere in 2005. A stagework for the Los Angeles Opera is planned for premiere in the 2005/06 season. The Ensemble Intercontemporain has recorded a disc of her works for future release on Deutsche Grammophon.

In addition to Acrostic-Wordplay (1991) for soprano and ensemble, works by Unsuk Chin include three scores written for the Ensemble Intercontemporain: Fantaisie mécanique (1994) for chamber ensemble, Xi (1998) for ensemble and electronics which won the Bourges Electroacoustic Prize, and the Double Concerto (2002) for piano, percussion and ensemble, premiered in February 2003.

Orchestral works in addition to the Violin Concerto include santika Ekatala (1993) premiered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Miroirs des temps (1999) commissioned by the BBC for The Hilliard Ensemble and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a Piano Concerto (1997) written for Rolf Hind, and Kalá (2000) for soloists, chorus and orchestra, co-commissioned by the Danish Radio Symphony, the Gothenburg Symphony and the Oslo Philharmonic orchestras.

In the chamber music sphere ParaMetaString (1996) was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, Spectres.speculaire (2000) for violin and electronics was premiered at the Witten Days for New Music, and her series of Piano Etudes (1995-) is in progress with six completed to date.

The Grawemeyer Foundation at the University of Louisville awards one million dollars each year, $200,000 each for music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion and psychology. The selection process includes a jury of professionals from each discipline and a knowledgeable lay panel. The late Charles Grawemeyer was an industrialist, entrepreneur and University of Louisville graduate who had a lifelong passion for music, education and religious studies. For further information about the Grawemeyer Awards visit www.grawemeyer.org.

For press interviews with Unsuk Chin or photos, please email muireann.smyth@boosey.com


Unsuk Chin
Performance Highlights: January-March 2004


16 January Teatro Sá de Miranda, Viana do Castelo
17 January Teatro Helena, Porto
Acrostic-Wordplay
Remix Ensemble / Stefan Asbury

7 February Cité de la Musique, Paris
8 February Philharmonie, Cologne
Acrostic-Wordplay
Ensemble Intercontemporain / Kazushi Ono

20 February Barbican, London
Violin Concerto (UK premiere)
Viviane Hagner, violin / BBC Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins

27/28 February Sendai, Japan
Piano Concerto (Japanese premiere)
Hiroaki Ooi, piano / Sendai Philharmonic / Park Eun Seong

20 March Geneva
Double Concerto (Swiss premiere)
Ensemble Contrechamps / Heinz Holliger

25 March Barcelona
Fantaisie mécanique (Spanish premiere)
Double Concerto (Spanish premiere)
Xi (Spanish premiere)
Barcelona 216

>  Further information on Work: Violin Concerto

Photo: © Woenki Kim

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