The Korea Herald


Composer Chin Unsuk receives prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize

By Park Ga-young

Published : Jan. 25, 2024 - 15:11

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Composer Chin Unsuk (Rui Camilo/Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation) Composer Chin Unsuk (Rui Camilo/Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation)

South Korean composer Chin Unsuk was awarded this year's International Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, a prestigious award that honors a composer, performer or musicologist who has made a distinguished contribution to the world of music, according to the Tongyeong International Music Festival, Thursday. Chin is the first Asian and fifth woman to receive the main prize since it was first given in 1974.

Chin has shown new paths in contemporary music and has captivated a broad audience, announced the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation in Zug, Switzerland. The foundation praised Chin's versatility, describing her works as featuring lucid, dreamlike sounds and a humorous lightness. "Her music is easily accessible to the audience, yet remains complex and challenging," said the foundation.

The 62-year-old musician, based in Berlin, is set to receive the award, endowed with 250,000 euros ($271,000), on May 18 in Munich.

Previous main prize winners include Benjamin Britten, Olivier Messiaen, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado and Daniel Barenboim.

A milestone in Chin's career, according to the foundation, was her Violin Concerto from 2001, for which she received the Arnold Schonberg Prize. In 2007, her opera "Alice in Wonderland" premiered at the Munich Opera Festival with renowned conductor Kent Nagano. Her repertoire also includes works of Korean music, and the foundation highlighted a 2009 concert for orchestra and sheng, a mouth organ-like instrument.

Chin serves as the artistic director of the Tongyeong International Festival in South Korea and the Weiwuying International Music Festival in Taiwan. Currently, she is also the Composer in Residence with the Basel Symphony Orchestra. Notable ensembles such as the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Berlin Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic have performed her works.

In December last year, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra released the "Unsuk Chin Edition," a rare album of a living composer that contains her six solo and orchestral works led by conductors Chung Myung-whun, Daniel Harding, Sakari Oramo and Simon Rattle.