playability matters 

Surely unique compositions should be a joy to explore to performers, but why are so many compositions in the modern era at the risky fate of being neglected? In times like this, renditions by musicians who encountered and/or collaborated with the composer are not only considered mere valuable but also are reflected as performance historiography.

Isang Yun’s case makes no exception. Several members of the Scharoun Ensemble in Berlin and the Isang Yun Ensemble in Pyongyang worked alongside the composer; they would have learned the unique musical language of composer directly.

Founded in 1983 by members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Scharoun Ensemble’s principal artistic focus is bridging the gap between tradition and the modern. Owing to a lively artistic exchange between the composer and members of the ensemble until his passing in 1995, spiritual qualities of his music are conveyed to executions by the group.

A state funded ensemble, the Isang Yun Ensemble of Pyongyang was established in 1990, whose repertoires range from Bach to Yun. The Orchestra received training under the supervision of the composer. As with most musicians from the communist bloc, despite somewhat lack of philosophical quality, their display of technical skills is sensational.
One of the complications in promoting Yun’s music relates to the playability such as demanding performers with the tremendous skill to invest in many hours of extra working. Performers of avant-garde music often require information about the executions of ‘how to’. Yun’s music is particularly complicated in terms of handling of ornaments arising from the Haupttöne, and simultaneously sounding interactions between players creating several acoustic layers. It is important how performers balance between articulating extreme and subtle expressions. The understanding of hierarchy in music is vital, such as identifying main and sub melody and articulating details between delicate and intense tone. One of the crucial interpretative aspects of Isang Yun’s music is structuring the sound while observing the neutral acoustic layer whether acoustic layers are of active or passive in nature.

Studying the renditions by the two groups could make a useful guideline towards Yun’s
musical insights.

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About julee

I am a researcher in musical modernism and politics. I am also a freelance cellist and especially enjoy playing chamber music with my violinist sister yulee. I live near Hatfield House .
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