In this truly continent-crossing concert, two celebrated contemporary composers - Unsuk Chin (South Korea) and Kevin Volans (Ireland and South Africa) - have each created new works to shine a light on the virtuosity of two extraordinary musicians with whom they have both worked extremely closely. Wu Wei (China) and David Power (Ireland) are masters of two of the world’s most ancient instruments - the former the Chinese Sheng, and the latter Ireland's very own Uilleann Pipes - and they bring this tradition and expertise to weave into two radical new scores for soloist and orchestra.
The Guardian, on Wu Wei
David Power brings a breathtaking freshness to the set, his fluid, fluent playing as light as a feather
The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra perform Unsuk Chin’s 'Šu' - for Sheng and Orchestra, and the world premiere of Kevin Volans' 'Gol Na mBan San Ár' - for Uilleann Pipes and Orchestra.
Korean composer Unsuk Chin had never intended composing for the 4,000 year old sheng (Chinese mouth organ) until she heard the work of virtuoso Wu Wei. Since then, Wu Wei has astounded audiences around the world with this ancient instrument, the beauty of which is illuminated by Chin’s concerto, played by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra with Wu Wei as soloist.
The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra then shift across the globe to play the world premiere of Kevin Volans 'Gol Na mBan San Ár', with uilleann pipes master David Power as soloist.
RTÉ NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Unsuk Chin 'Šu'
Kevin Volans 'Gol Na mBan San Ár' (World Premiere)
David Power, Uilleann Pipes
Wu Wei, Sheng
The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra has been at the forefront of symphonic music in Ireland since its foundation in 1948. Today the orchestra plays a central role in classical music through year long programmes of live performances, schools and educational projects, a mentoring scheme for young musicians, broadcasts on RTÉ and internationally through the European Broadcasting Union, as well as recordings and new commissions.
The orchestra has been critically acclaimed for its recordings across a variety of labels including Naxos, Claves and RTÉ lyric fm. Naxos releases include two critically acclaimed recordings of works by Bizet and Dukas with conductor Jean-Luc Tingaud.
World-class conductors associated with the orchestra’s early days include Jean Martinon, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, Edmond Appia, Milan Horvat and Sir John Barbirolli. The first half of the 1960s saw Tibor Paul as Principal Conductor, a tenure memorable for the visit of Igor Stravinsky.
Guest artists and composers with whom the orchestra has worked over the years include legendary names such as Josef Szigeti, Isaac Stern, Henryk Szering, Ruggiero Ricci, Wilhelm Kempff, Julius Katchen, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Joan Sutherland, Bernadette Greevy, Angela Gheorghiu, Kiri te Kanawa, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Mstislav Rostropovich, Paul Tortelier, Barry Douglas, Sir James Galway, Constantin Silvestri, Charles Dutoit, Sir Charles Groves, Witold Lutosławski, Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt.
Acclaimed Uilleann piper David Power is a member of Irish music groups Masters of Tradition and Pipers Union. He has performed in the off-Broadway show ‘Love’s Pure Light’, recorded music for the Irish Repertory Theatre’s ‘The Field’ and was a cast member and musician in the Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s ‘A Touch of the Poet’. He has performed with many poets including Michael Davitt, Dermot Bolger, Kerry Hardie, Seamus Heaney, Thomas McCarthy, Clodagh Beresford-Dunne and Robert Pinsky, worked with accordionist Tony MacMahon, Dermot Bolger and Director John Comisky on audiovisual show ‘The Frost is All Over’ and developed a stage show based on early Irish Christian Saints with Kerry Hardie and Olivia O’Leary ‘To Find a Heathen Place and Sound a Bell’ which had its debut at the renowned Kilkenny Arts Festival.
Recent collaborations include a Music Network commission entitled ‘Edges of Light’ with harpist Maeve Gilchrist, fiddler Tola Custy and dancer Colin Dunne, which featured at the Irish Arts Center in New York in June 2017, and audiovisual show ‘Antarctica’ with composer Linda Buckley and John Comisky, which premiered at the 2017 Kilkenny Arts Festival. With three critically acclaimed solo recordings - ‘My Love is in America’, ‘Cuachín Ghleann Neifin’ and ‘The Eighteen Moloney’ - Power regularly performs with fiddle players Willie Kelly and Martin Hayes, presents organ and uilleann pipes recitals with Malcolm Proud and performs with baroque group Camerata Kilkenny in a show called ‘The Piper and the Faerie Queen’.
Wei Wu, Sheng Virtuoso, was born in China and studied the sheng (Chinese mouth organ) at the Shanghai Music Conservatory. In 1995 he became a DAAD scholar and studied at the Hans Eisler Music Academy in Berlin, where he is now based. Since 2013 he is Professor at Shanghai Music Conservatory. As a sheng soloist, he has helped to develop the ancient instrument into an innovative force in contemporary music, through the creation of new techniques, the expansion of its repertoire and through integrating different styles and genres.
In addition to many prestigious national and international competitions for traditional Chinese music, Wei has won the Musica Vitale Competition (Germany) in 1996 and 2002, and the Global Root world music prize in 2004. In 2011 he won a Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival for a performance of Unsuk Chin's “Su-Concertro for Sheng“ with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra under Myung-Whun Chun. Since 1996 he has appeared as a soloist with many leading orchestras and ensembles, including the Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestras under Kent Nagano, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel, the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Ilan Volkov, the Radio France Philharmoic Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra under Myung-Whun Chun, and many more.
His international engagements include appearances throughout the USA, Canada, South America, Europe, Russia, and the Middle and Far East, and he has given the world premieres of more than 150 works (including ten concertos for Sheng and Orchestra), by composers including John Cage, Unsuk Chin, Toshio Hosokawa, Enjott Schneider, Joerg Widmann, Guus Janssen, Tan Dun, Chen Qigang, Guo Weijing and Ruo Huang.
Unsuk Chin was born in 1961 in Seoul, South Korea, and has lived in Berlin since 1988. Her music has attracted international conductors including Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Kent Nagano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, David Robertson, Peter Eötvös, Neeme Järvi, Markus Stenz, Myung-Whun Chung, George Benjamin, Susanna Mälkki, François -Xavier Roth, Leif Segerstam and Ilan Volkov, among others. It is modern in language, but lyrical and non-doctrinaire in communicative power. Chin has received many honours, including the 2004 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her Violin Concerto, the 2005 Arnold Schoenberg Prize, the 2010 Prince Pierre Foundation Music Award, the 2012 Ho-Am Prize and the 2017 Wihuri Sibelius Prize.
She has been commissioned by leading performing organisations and her music has been performed in major festivals and concert series in Europe, the Far East, and North America by orchestras and ensembles such as the Berlin Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Ensemble Modern, Kronos Quartet and Arditti Quartet. In addition, Unsuk Chin has been active in writing electronic music, receiving commissions from IRCAM and other electronic music studios.
Kevin Volans was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, and studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne. He now is an Irish citizen. In 1979 after research trips to South Africa, he began a series of pieces based on African composition techniques, which occupied him for the next 10 years. After a productive collaboration with the Kronos quartet in the 1980s his work, principally in the field of chamber and orchestral music, has been regularly performed worldwide.
In 1997 the BBC Music Magazine listed him as one of the 50 most important living composers and he was described by the Village Voice as “one of the most original and unpredictable voices on the planet”.
Latterly, he has turned his attention to writing for orchestra and as well as collaborating with visual artists. Principal performances in the last years include the Berliner Musikfest, Vienna State Opera, Lincoln Center New York, Conzertgebouw Amsterdam, Pompidou Centre Paris and the BBC Proms.
David Brophy was born in Dublin and is a graduate of the Dublin Institute of Technology and Trinity College Dublin. Following further studies in Ireland, England and Holland, he was appointed Apprentice Conductor with Chamber Choir Ireland and subsequently became the first appointee to take the position of Assistant Conductor with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland. A former Principal Conductor of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, David now enjoys a close relationship with both RTÉ orchestras in addition to regular appearances as guest conductor with the Ulster Orchestra. His career has seen him conduct throughout Europe, Africa, the United States, Canada and China.
David has collaborated with many internationally acclaimed soloists, among them Tasmin Little, Barry Douglas, Willard White, Lesley Garret, Sir James Galway, Lang Lang, Danielle de Niese, Nicola Benedetti, Kim Criswell, Daniel Hope, Dame Evelyn Glennie and Chloë Hanslip. He has conducted across Europe with recent engagements taking him to Spain (Orquesta Nacional Clásica de Andorra and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia) and Finland (Oulu Symphony Orchestra), while other appearances overseas have included performances at New York’s Lincoln Centre with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and at London’s Barbican Centre as part of their Silent Film & Live Music series, alongside his début with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia in the Fabulous Beast Stravinsky double-bill (The Rite of Spring and Petrushka) at Sadler’s Wells. Most recent foreign engagements have seen him début with some of America’s finest orchestras including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Buffalo Philharmonic, Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington D.C.
His work with specialist new music ensembles, among them Vox 21 and Crash Ensemble, has led to numerous premieres including the Irish premiere of Steve Reich’s Music for Eighteen Musicians and Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, alongside recent world premieres of arrangements by Nico Muhly for traditional Irish singer, Iarla Ó Lionáird. David’s operatic work has led to wide acclaim, partnering Lyric Opera Productions, Opera Theatre Company, Opera Ireland, Glasthule Opera and Northern Ireland Opera, most notably in their recent acclaimed partnership with the Irish Chamber Orchestra conducting Handel’s Radamisto. Beyond the realm of strictly musical performances, he has regularly collaborated in concert with major international actors, including Brendan Gleeson, Fiona Shaw, Stephen Rae and Adrian Dunbar.
David has worked closely with numerous singer/songwriters, among them Eleanor McEvoy, Paul Brady, Brian Kennedy and Declan O’Rourke, composers including Shaun Davey, Neil Martin, Bill Whelan, Arvo Pärt, David Fennessy, Nico Muhly and Donnacha Dennehy, traditional musicians including Altan, Liam O’Flynn, Sharon Corr, Máirtín O’Connor, Lúnasa, The Chieftains, Clannad, Rita Connolly, Carlos Núñez, Sharon Shannon and Martin Hayes. His all-embracing musical tastes have also witnessed collaborations with U2, Sinéad O’Connor, Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Duke Special, Celtic Thunder, Imelda May, Jack L, Phil Coulter, The Coronas, Neil Hannon (Divine Comedy), Eddi Reader (Fairground Attraction) and Marti Pellow (Wet Wet Wet). He has appeared at all major festivals in Ireland, most notably with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra at the Electric Picnic, and has conducted at the Proms in the Park with the Ulster Orchestra as part of the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms.
David has broadcast on RTÉ, BBC, CBC (Canada), Sky Arts 2 television and across Europe for the EBU. He has recorded for Silva Screen Records, Lyric FM, Tara Records, V2 Records, New World Records and Compass Records labels. His television appearances include the National Concert Hall’s 25th anniversary gala concert, The Symphony Sessions (RTÉ) and Proms in the Park (BBC) with the Ulster Orchestra. Film credits include Shaun Davey’s scores for The Abduction Club and Ella Enchanted while his recent recording of Victor Herbert’s operetta Eileen for New World Records, conducting the Orchestra of Ireland in collaboration with triple Grammy award-winning producer Judith Shermann, has been released to wide critical acclaim.
David won the 2013 Sky Arts Ignition Award, pitching with director Lynne Parker (Rough Magic Theatre Company) to present Kurt Weill’s opera Mahagonny at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre, mounted as a co-production with Opera Theatre Company.
Aside from his work as a musician, David has presented the RTÉ1 award-winning TV series Instrumental and most recently fronted the IFTA award-winning High Hopes Choir for Tyrone Productions and RTÉ1 TV. He has most recently been appointed to the board of Ireland’s Contemporary Music Centre.
Header: Unsuk Chin. Photo courtesy of artist.
David Power. Photo by Con Kelleher.
Kevin Volans. Photo courtesy of artist.
Wu Wei. Photo courtesy of artist.
David Brophy. Photo courtesy of artist.
RTE National Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy of artists.