Korean composer Chin Un-suk awarded Leonie Sonning Music Prize - Korea Times
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Korean composer Chin Un-suk awarded Leonie Sonning Music Prize

Composer Chin Un-suk / Courtesy of Chin Un-suk
Composer Chin Un-suk / Courtesy of Chin Un-suk

By Park Ji-won

Korean composer Chin Un-suk became the first Asian to receive Denmark's prestigious Leonie Sonning Music Prize.

The organizer of the prize, which has recognized international composers and musicians since 1959, announced the award ceremony was held at the DR Concert Hall in Denmark, June 5. The award has been given out since 1959 to honor internationally recognized musicians, including composers and conductors. Past winners include iconic composers Igor Stravinsky (1959), Leonard Bernstein (1965) and Dmitri Shostakovich (1973).

"I am deeply humbled and grateful to win the Leonie Sonning Music Prize 2021. It is an honor as well as a great challenge, all the more given my great admiration for the previous awardees, most of whom have served as personal heroes and role models during my musical life. I am enormously touched by the jury's accolade and feel a great affinity for the high artistic values represented by the Leonie Sonning Foundation. I look greatly forward towards reconnecting with your beautiful and highly artistic city, to working together with Fabio Luisi and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, other excellent ensembles and musicians, as well as with the Royal Danish Academy of Music," Chin was quoted as saying by the award organizer.

"With a music rich in shimmering light effects and endless color play, Chin Un-suk is a composer who cultivates the boundless. Born in South Korea and living in Berlin, Chin Un-suk today composes a music that has deviated from traditions and is instead based on dreams and a great curiosity to create entirely new sound worlds," Esben Tange, chairman of the Leonie Sonning Music Fund, said on the choice of Chin as the recipient of the award.

She was awarded 1 million Danish kroner (182.67 million won) as prize money in recognition of her visionary work as a composer, added Katrine Ganer Skaug, who is the vice chairman of the board. "With her entirely individual approach to music, she draws drama, humor and clarity from a complex world of sounds. In her works, Chin Un-suk communicates a distinctive power that overwhelms us with curiosity, forces us to discover the unexpected and expands our musical universe."

During the prize concert held at the same venue on June 5, her pieces "subito con forza" (2020), "Piano Concerto" (1996-97) and "Puzzles and Games from Alice in Wonderland" (2017) were performed by Siobhan Stagg (soprano), Francesco Piemontesi (piano) and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under conductor Fabio Luisi.

Born in Seoul, Chin has lived in in Berlin since 1988. She has been considered one of the leading contemporary classical composers in the world. She is widely known for her opera adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland" first showcased at the Bavarian State Opera in 2007 and the many concertos she has composed for various instruments. She has won multiple international awards in the last two decades including the 2004 Grawemeyer Award for her violin concerto.

She served as composer-in-residence for the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra from 2006 to 2017 and will serve as artistic director for the Tongyeong International Music Foundation from 2022 to 2026. She was also named as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in March.

Park Ji-won jwpark@koreatimes.co.kr

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