Isang Yun (1917-1995, Korean, German)

Yun photo

(you can skip the presentation of the composer and go directly to the discographies, of Camerata’s original 11-CD series “Compositions of Isang Yun”, of the 2009 reissue on 9-CDs “The Art of Isang Yun”, of the 10-CD series published by the Intenational Isang Yun Society, to the other CDs in my collection, and to the CDs I’m still missing).

Isang Yun (1917-1995) seems to be suffering the fate of many composers when they die – especially when they are stylistically independent composers, rather than leaders or members of a compositional “school” (Michael Tippett, or the French André Jolivet and the Spanish/French Maurice Ohana, here come to mind): he tends to be forgotten.

Well, I hope it doesn’t last too long, because Yun was one, in my opinion, of the greatest and most original composers of the second half of the 20th Century, especially in his later years when he let his lyrical vein take over. Yun’s early works are rooted in the most thorny and gnarled style of the German avant-garde of the time, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s he invented a unique and uniquely beautiful style, combining those advances of the avant-garde and the melismatic traditions of Chinese and Korean Court music. A lot of his music then takes place in the upper reaches, often sounding like some wild aviary from outer space. His music is never “easy-listening”, saccharine and sentimental as it often is with the neo-tonal, neo-simplistic, neo-mystical minimalist composers that carved out a niche in the 1980s and 1990s, but if you have the ear to hear it, it is achingly beautiful, all the more so as its lyricism is entirely exotic.

On the face of this, the well-known anecdotes from Yun’s life – that he was a South-Korean supportingh North-Korea and an advocate of the re-unification of the two countries, that in 1967 he was abducted in Berlin by the South-Korean secret services (South Korea was then a dictatorship), tortured and sentenced to life in prison and owed his recovered freedom only to the international protest that ensued, that he established in Germany and acquired German citizenship and never went back to South Korea thereafter -, as important as they were back then in shaping his emotional and compositional outlook, are now of no great importance.

When I started posting reviews on a decade ago, one of the objectives I set to myself was to review all the music of Yun I had in my collection and so expound my love and fascination for his music. Well, ten years later, I’m far from there yet – too much vying for attention and listening time. But hopefully, creating my own website will give me a new kickstart.

The Japanese label Camerata did great service to the admirer of Yun’s music when they issued, between 1987 and 1997, an 11-CD survey of his music, a series called “Compositions of Isang Yun” (the first installments were first released on LP in the early 1980s, and the last volume, released some years after the others, wasn’t numbered as part of the series and was only titled “Last works of Isang Yun”), and this is how I have them. In 2009 they reissued their Yun collection on a 9-CD series titled “The Art of Isang Yun”, and did some reshuffling on the occasion. In the original series, the pairings were rarely entirely consistent, mixing orchestral and chamber, and various performers. The reissued series is genre-centered, with three volumes of orchestral, two volumes of concertos, and the remainder of chamber and instrumental music. Also, stacking the contents of the original eleven CDs on only nine, each offers more generous timings, almost always over 70 minutes, while those of the original series ran to about 60-minutes each, and sometimes even less, especially volumes 1-3 which were straight reissues from LP.

Here’s the correspondence between both editions (with the links of those I have reviewed):

Compositions of Isang Yun-1: Selected works for Clarinet: Concerto for Clarinet, “Riul” for Clarinet and Piano, “Piri”. Eduard Brunner, Bayerischer Rundfunk SO, Patrick Thomas, Aloys Kontarsky (piano). Camerata 32CM-46 (1988)
Concerto on Art-5 (with the Concerto for Flute from Composition-9 and the Concerto for Cello from Compositions-5), Riul and Piri on Art-8 (with Images from Compositons-4 and Sonata for Oboe Harp & Viola from Compositions-5)

Compositions of Isang Yun-2: Violin Concerto (1981). Akiko Tatsumi, Radio Sinfonie Orchester Frankfurt, Zdeněk Mácal. Camerata 32CM-68 (1989)
On Art-4 with Double Concerto for Oboe & Harp from Compositions-4

Compositions of Isang Yun-3: Muak – Tanzerische Fantasie (Rundfunk SO Saarbrücken, Hans Zender), Pièce Concertante (ChamberEnsemble of the Radio SO Saarbrücken, Zender), Sonatina for 2 violins (Saschko Gawriloff & Akiko Tatsumi). Camerata 32CM-107 (1989)
Muak on Art-1 with Symphony No. 1 from Compositions-6,  Pièce concertante on Art-6 “Chamber Music I” (with Loyang from Compositions-6, Salomo, Gong-Hu, In Balance from Compositions-9), Sonatina on Art-9 “Chamber music IV” with Königliches Thema, Gasa and Contrasts from Compositions-8

Compositions of Isang Yun-4: Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Small Orchestra, “Images” for Flute, Oboe, Violon and Violoncello. Heinz Holliger (oboe), Aurèle Nicolet (flute), Ursula Holliger (harp), Hansheinz Schneeberger (violin), Thomas Demenga (cello), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, Dennis Russell Davies. Camerata 32CM-108 (1989), Camerata CM-108 (2003), Camerata CMCD-25023 (2003)
Double Concerto on Art-4 with Violin Concerto from Compositions-2, Images on Art-8 with Riul and Piri from compositions-1 and Sonata for Oboe Harp & Viola from Compositions-5

Compositions of Isang Yun- 5: Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra, Sonata for Oboe, Harp and Viola. Siegfried Palm, Berlin Radio SO, Hans Zender. Heinz & Ursula Holliger, Hirofumi Fukai. Camerata 32CM-22 (1987), Camerata CM-22 (2002), Camerata CMCD-25022 (2002)
Cello Concerto on Art-5 with those for Flute (from Compositions-9) and Clarinet (from Compositions-1), the Sonata on Art-8 (with Piri and Riul from Compositions-1, Images from Compositons-4)

Compositions of Isang Yun-6: Symphony No. 1 (The State SO of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Byung Hwa), Loyang for Chamber Ensemble (Members of the State SO of the DPRK, Francis Travis). Camerata 32CM-26 (1987)
Symphony on Art-1 with Muak from Compositions-3, Loyang on Art-6 “Chamber Music I” with Pièce Concertante from Compositions-3, Salomo, Gong-Hu, In Balance from Compositions-9

Compositions of Isang Yun-7: “My Land, my People” for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1987). Exemplum in memoriam Kwangju (1981). State SO of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Byung-Hwa Kim. Camerata 32CM-69 (1988), reissued on 25CM-69 (2002)
This is the only one  don’t have from the series, but it is the same recording as on Cpo 999 047-2, which I have. It was reissued on Art-3.

Compositions of Isang Yun-8: Königliches Thema for solo violin. Gasa for violin & piano. Kontraste – 2 Piece for Solo Violin. Clarinet Quintet. Akiko Tatsumi (violin), Yuji Takahashi (piano), Eduard Brunner (clarinet), Akiko Tatsumi String Quartet. Camerata 32CM-70 (1990)
Clarinet Quintet on Art-7 with the contents of “Last Works”, and the rest on Art-9 with the addition of the Sonatina from Compositions-3.

Compositions of Isang Yun-9: Concerto for Flute and Small Orchestra, Salomo for Solo Alto Flute, Gong-Hu for Harp and Strings, In Balance for Harp. Roswitha Staege (flute), Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, Hans Zender. Ursula Holliger, Camerata Bern String Ensemble, Heinz Holliger. Camerata 32CM-109 (1991), Camerata CM-109 (2004)
Concerto on Art-5 with the two other concertos from Compositions-1 & 5, the rest on Art-6 (“Chamber music I”) with Loyang from Compositions-6 and Pièce Concertante from Compositions-3

Compositons of Isang Yun-10: Symphony No. 2, Symphony No. 4 “Singing in the Dark”. Bavarian Radio SO, Georg Schmöhe, Tokyo Metropolitan SO, Hiroyuki Hiwaki. Camerata 30CM-226 (1995).
On Art-2

Volumes 1-10 reissued on a 10-CD set, Camerata  25CM-231-240 (1992)  (reviewed in Fanfare, July 1995) 

Last Works of Isang Yun”: Clarinet Quintet No. 2. String Quartet No. 5. Quartet for Oboe and Strings. Sawa Quartet, Seiki Shinohe (clarinet), Hiroshi Shibayama (oboe). Camerata 30CM-363 (1997)
All on Art-7 with the addition of the 1st Clarinet Quintet from Compositions-8


Here are the details of the “Art of Isang Yun” series:

CMCD-50024 Art of Isang Yun vol. 1 (Orchestral Works I): Symphony No. 1 (from Compositions-6), Muak – Tänzerische Fantasie (from Compositions-3).

CMCD-50025 Art of Isang Yun vol. 2 (Orchestral Works II): S2 & 4 “Singing in the Dark” (from Compositions-10)

CMCD-50026 Art of Isang Yun vol. 3 (Orchestral Works III): “My Land, my People”, Exemplum (from Compositions-7)

CMCD 50027 Art of Isang Yun vol. 4 (Concerto I) with Double Concerto for oboe & harp (from Compositions-4) and Violin Concerto (from Compositions-2)

CMCD-50028 Art of Isang Yun vol. 5 (Concerto II) with Concertos for Flute (from Compositions-9), for Cello (from Compositions-5), for Clarinet (from Compositions-1)

CMCD-50029 Art of Isang Yun vol. 6 (Chamber music I): Loyang (from Compositions-6), Pièce Concertante (from Compositions-3), Salomo, Gong-Hu, In Balance (from Compositions-9)

CMCD 50030 Art of Isang Yun vol. 7 (Chamber music II): Clarinet Quintets No. 1 (from Compositions-8) & 2, String Quartet No. 5, Oboe Quartet (from “Last Works”)

CMCD 50031 Art of Isang Yun vol. 8 (Chamber music III): Images (from Compositions-4), Piri, Riul (from Compositions-1), Sonata for Oboe-Harp-Viola (from Compositions-5)

CMCD 50032 Art of Isang Yun vol. 9 (Chamber music IV): Sonatina for 2 violins (from Compositions-3), Königliches Thema, Gasa, Contrasts (from Compositions-8)


Another great series is the one published by the Internationale Isang Yun Gesellschaft between 1999 and 2014, comprising so far 10 CDs. It is invaluable not only for sake of its relative rarity – very few are listed on the various Amazons or on eBay, and usually at prices that are above what I’m happy to pay for a CD; however, as I write, in September 2016, they are all still available from the Yun Society), but also because it features many works of Yun that are not available elsewhere, and/or interpretations that you absolutely WANT to hear (like the Third Symphony conducted by Myung-Whun Chung, or the world premiere of the Fifth Symphony sung by Fischer-Dieskau with the Berlin Philharmonic). How I discovered about this series and how I became the happy and proud owner of its 10 installments is recounted in my daily posts of September 15 and 16 2016. Until I’ve had time to create a complete listing for them each of them, to see the cover images, go to the Society’s website (from there you’ll have to click on the link in the left column, “CD”, under the heading “The Society”). Here is the complete listing:

IYG 001 “Werke I”: Trio for Flute (Alto Flute), Oboe and Violin (Roswitha Staege, Burkhard Glaetzner, Uwe-Martin Haiberg live 5 November 1997). Chinesische Bilder for Solo Flute(s) (Roswitha Staege live 2 December 1995). String Quartet No. 4 (Quartet 21 Seoul, live 8 November 1996). Images for Flute, Oboe, Violin and Cello (Roswitha Staege, Burkhard Glaetzner, Kolja Lessing, Walter Grimmer live 5 November 1997) (1999) no barcode

IYG 002 “Werke II”:  Ouverture for large orchestra (Saarbrücken Radio SO, Hans Zender 22 February 1975). Quartet for flutes (Roswitha Staege, Irmela Bossler, Ayl Caymaz, Susanne Winckler 25 November 1987). Memory for three voices and percussion (Gisela Saur-Kontarsky, Carla Henius, William Pearson, 24 May 1974). Teile Dich Nacht (Dorothy Dorow, Ensemble Integration Saarbrücken, Hans Zender 22 March 1981). Symphony No. 3 (Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, Myung-Whun Chung) (2001), no barcode

IYG 003 “Werke III”:  Bara for orchestra (NDR SO, Hiroyuki Hiwaki 10 May 1965). Fluktuationen for orchestra (Radio-Symphony-Orchestra Berlin, Peter Ronnefeld 5-9 February 1965). Dimensionen for large orchestra with organ (Peter Schwarz, Radio-Symphony-Orchetra Berlin, Hans Zender 25 October 1972). Namo for three sopranos and large orchestra (Dorothy Dorow, Maria de Francesca, Slavka Taskova, Radio-Symphony-Orchestra Berlin, Michael Gielen 4 May 1971) (2004), no barcode

IYG 004 “Werke IV”: An der Schwelle for baritone, woman’s choir, organ, winds and percussion (Ernst Gerold Schramm, Ladies of the RIAS chamber choir, Zsigmond Szathmáry, Solisten-Ensemble Berlin, Uwe Gronostay 24 January 1979). Leggerio – Etude II for solo cello; Dolce – Etude V for solo cello (Myung-Jin Lee 27 July 2002). Piri for solo oboe (Heinz Holliger 17 September 1977). Der weise Mann, Cantata for baritone, mixed chorus and chamber ensemble (Carl-Heinz Müller, Memers of the Chamber Choir Ernst Senff, Instrumental-Ensemble Berlin, Peter Schwarz 8 June 1977) (2005), no barcode

IYG 005 “Werke V”: Symphony No. 5 for large orchestra with baritone solo (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Berlin Philharmonic, Hans Zender, world premiere live 17 September 1987). Muak, dance fantasy for large orchestra (Berlin Philharmonic, Hans Zender live 19 December 1981) (2006), no barcode

IYG 006 “Werke VI”: Sori for solo flute (Shih-Chun Chen, live 2 December 2004). String Quartet No. 3 (Salwyria Ensemmble live 30 October 2004). Etude IV for bass flute (Marton Végh live 23 May 2002). Shao Yang Yin (Holger Groschopp, piano, live 27 September 2003). Quintet for clarinet No. 2 (Martin Spangenberg, Iturriaga Quartett live 1 November 2001) (2007), no barcode

IYG 007 “Werke VII”: Garak for flute and piano (Roswitha Staege, Randolf Stöck live 10 November 2007). Kontraste-2 pieces for solo violin, Königliches Thema for solo violin (Kolja Lessing live 1 October 2007). Etude III for piccolo flute solo & Etude V for flute solo (Aya Hemmi live 23 January 2006). Fünf Stücke für Klavier (Randolf Stöck live 10 November 2007). Duo for Viola and Piano (Hartmut Rohde, Randolf Stöck live 8 November 2007) (2008), no barcode

IYG 008 “Werke VIII”: Réak for large orchestra (SWR SO Baden-Baden & Freiburg, Hans Zender live 11 December 2001). Harmonia for winds, harpe and percussion (Radio SO Basel, Heinz Holliger 27 August 1980). Symphonische Szene for large orchestra (Sinfonieorchester des Südwestfunks, Bruno Maderna live 27 September 1980) (2010), no barcode

IYG 009 “Werke IV”: Etude I for solo flute (Bernhard Kury, 17 October 2012). Gasa for violin and piano (Hansheinz Schneeberger, Andreas Kersten live 3 November 1999).  Etude II for alto flute solo (Liam Mallett 19 April 2011). Gasa-Trio for violin, piano (celesta), cymbalum and percussion, arrangement by Hansheinz Schneeberger (Hansheinz Schneeberger violin, Holger Groschopp piano & celesta, Mathias Würsch cymbalum & percussion, live world premiere 15 November 2008). Quintet for flute and string quartet (Roswitha Staege, Götz Rüstig, Gotz Hartmann, Katalina McDonald, Claudia Limperg 14 December 1987) (2013), no barcode

IYG 010 “Werke X”: Concerto for Oboe (Oboe d’amore) and small orchestra (Heinz Holliger, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie live 10 December 1997). “O Licht… ” for 8-part mixed chorus with solo violin and percussion (Akiko Tatsumi violin, Siegfried Fink & Rainer Römer percussion, Choir of South-German Radio, Marinus Voorberg 23 June 1981). Chamber Symphony II “Den Opfern der Freiheit” (Ensemble Modern, Lothar Zagrosek, live world premiere 6 September 1989) (2014), no barcode


And here’s the list of my other CDs of or with music of Yun, roughly arranged by rising order of instrumental lineup:

Interludium A for piano. Jeffrey Burns (with works of Feldman: Palais de Mari, Ligeti: 6 Etudes, Reimann: Spektren). Academy/Edel ACA 8505-2 

Glissées, for solo cello (1970). Siegfried Palm (recorded November 1974), in “Intercommunicazione”, with works of Webern, Xenakis, Kagel, Zimmermann, Penderecki, Earle Brown. DG 471 573-2 (2002)

Königliches Thema for solo violin (1976). Kolja Lessing (recorded 1988), in “J.S. Bach: Werk und Wirkung” with works of Bach (Partita No. 3) and Bach-inspired compositions for violin or piano by Hindemith, Schumann, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, all played by Kolja Lessing. Ars Musici AM 0954-2 (1990)

Gasa for violin & piano. Paul Zukofsky, Gilbert Kalish (recorded 1970) in Earle Brown Contemporary Sound Series Vol.6: “New Music for Violin & Piano” (with works of Crumb, Wuorinen, Cage). 3 CDs Wergo

Gasa (Hansheinz Schneeberger, violin, Thomas Larcher, piano). Espace 1 (Thomas Demenga, cello, Thomas Larcher, piano). Images for flute, oboe, violin and cello (Aurèle Nicolet, Heinz Holliger, Hansheinz Schneeberger, Thomas Demenga) (with Bach Cello Suites Nos. 5 & 6, Hosokawa). ECM New Series  1782/83   

20th Century Portraits: Isang Yun – Chamber Music (Novelette for flute & harp with violin and cello ad libitum. Piano Trio. Duo for Violoncello & Harp. Sonata for Violin & Piano). Kolja Lessing (violin), Walter Grimmer (cello), Holger Groschopp (piano), Maria Graf (harp), Roswitha Staege (flute). Capriccio 67 118 (2005)

Piano Trio. Kim Trio (with trios of Mendelssohn and Beethoven). Christian Feldgen Music CFM 37 (2007)

Works for flutes (Pezzo Fantasioso. Inventionen. Salomo. Flute Quartet. Novellette for Flute & Harp with Violin & Cello ad libitum). Attaca Babel 9056-3 (1990)

Piri for oboe solo, Quartet for Oboe & Strings. Heinz Holliger, Thomas Zehetmair, Ruth Killius, Thomas Demenga (with works of Elliott Carter). ECM New Series 1848/49 – 472 787-2 (2003)

Festlicher Tanz, Wind Quintet. Ma’alot Quintett (with Beethoven Quintet op. 71 for winds after the Sextet op. 71, Quintet op 103 for winds after the Wind Octet op. 103). Berlin Classics 0011292BC (1995)

Music for Wind: Rondell for Oboe, Clarinet & Bassoon. Festlicher Tanz for Wind Quintet. Sori for flute solo. Pezzo Fantasioso. Movement I & II for Wind Quintet. Albert Schweitzer Quintett. Cpo 999 184-2 (1993)

String Quartet No. 1. Novus Quartet (with Webern: Langsamer Satz, Beethoven String Quartet op. 95 “Serioso”, Airang arr. Sung-Min Ahn). Apartemusic AP125 (2015)

Chamber Music: String Quartet No. 3, Concertino for Accordion and String Quartet, Tapis for String Quintet, String Quartet No. 4. Nomos-Quartett, Mie Mikki (accordion), Regine Bormann (double bass). Cpo 999 075-2 (1990)

String Quartet No. 5. Orlando Quartet (with Schnittke: String Quartet No. 3, Tristan Keuris: Clarinet Quintet). Emergo Classics EC 3955-2 (1994)

String Quartet No. 5. Iturriaga Quartett (in “Horizonte” with works of Abel Ehrlich, Kevin Volans, Klaus Hinrich Stahmer, Mario Lavista). Amphion Records amph 20482 (2004)

Königliches Thema for solo violin (Oleg Kagan). Clarinet Quintet (Eduard Brunner, Wilanow Quartet). Piri for clarinet. Duo for Cello and Harp. Rencontres for Clarinet, Harp and Cello. Eduard Brunner (clarinet), Marion Hofmann (harp), Walter Grimmer (cello). Aurophon / Col Legno AU 31808 CD (1991)

Clarinet Quintet. Sabine Meyer, Wiener Streichsextett (with Brahms Clarinet Quintet). EMI Classics CDC 7 54304 2 (1991)

Quintet for Clarinet Nos. 1 & 2, String Quartet No. 6. Eduard Brunner, Amati Quartett. Cpo 999 428-2 (1997)

Musique de Chambre: Octet. Glissées for cello. Trio for clarinet horn and bassoon. Monolog for bassoon. Quintet No. 2 for clarinet and strings. Octuor Mirae. Hérisson LH 12 (2015), barcode 3770002538074

Musik für sieben Instrumente. The Hamburger Kammersolisten, Francis Travis (in Earle Brown Contemporary Sound Series vol. 4, CD 3 with works of Kelemen, Catiglioni, Fellegara). 3 CDs Wergo 6937-39-2

Garak for flute & piano. Five Etudes for Flute. Octet. Concerto for Flute & Small Orchestra. Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Jacqueline Méfano (piano), Ensemble 2e2m, Paul Méfano. Adda 581166 (1990)

Isang Yun vol. 2: Musik für 7 Instrumente. Königliches Thema. Distanzen. Kammerkonzert I & II. Serge Garcia (violin), Ensemble 2e2m, Paul Méfano. 2e2m 1010 (1997)

Kammerkonzert I. Pièce Concertante. Distanzen. Quartet for horn, trumpet, trombone & piano. Schönberg Ensemble, Reinbert de Leeuw, recorded 18-23 October 1993. Etcetera KTC 9000 – CD 13, part of the 23-CD + 4 DVD “Schönberg Ensemble Edition – A century of music in perspective” (2006)

Chamber Symphony (Kammerkonzert) No 1, Tapis for strings, Gong Hu for harp & strings. Rana Park (harp), Korean Chamber Ensemble, Piotr Borkowski. Naxos 8.5577938 (© 2005 2006), barcode 747313293824

Chamber Symphony No. 1. Münchener Kammerorchester, Alexander Liebreich (with Haydn Symphonies Nos. 39 & 45). ECM New Series 2029 / 476 6188 (2008), barcode 028947661887

Mugung-Dong – Invocation for Winds, Percussion and Double Bass. Teile dich Nacht for Soprano and Chamber Ensemble. Octet. Impression for small orchestra. Christine Whittlesey (soprano), Ensemble Modern, Hans Zender. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi HM 855-2 / 881726-909 (1987 – 1990)

Fanfare & Memorial for orchestra (Berlin Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel). Etudes for Flute(s) solo (Tara Helen O’Connor). Distanzen for Woodwind Quintet & String Quintet (The Scharoun Ensemble, Heinz Holliger). Arcadia ARC 1997-2 (1992)

20th Century Portraits: Isang Yun. Réak for orchestra. Concerto for Cello. Harmonia for wind instruments, harp and percussion. Jens Peter Maintz, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Stefan Asbury. Capriccio 67 062 (2003)

Symphonies 1 & 3. Filharmonia Pomorska, Takao Ukigaya. Cpo 999 125-2 (1991)

Symphonies 2 (1984) & 4 (1986). Filharmonia Pomorska, Takao Ukigaga. Cpo 999 147-2 (1992)

Symphony 5. Richard Salter (baritone), Filharmonia Pomorska, Taka Ukigaya. Cpo 999 148-2 (1994)

“My Land, my People” for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra (1987). Exemplum in memoriam Kwangju (1981). State SO of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Byung-Hwa Kim. Cpo 999 047-2 (1988)



So, with the recent addition of the series from the Isang Yun Society, I guess I can reasonably consider that this makes me one of the greatest collectors of Yun CDs in the world after the Society itself. That said, leaving aside the recital CDs with only tidbits from Yun, there’s still more that I don’t have and that’s attractive:

After Camerata, Cpo has been the most generous commercial label for Yun. I’m missing only one:
999 118-2. Chamber Music: Gagok for voice guitar and percussion. Contrasts I & II for solo violin. Duo for cello and harp. Sori for solo flute. Novellette for Flute (Alto Flute) and Harp with Violin and Cello. Ensemble l’Art pour l’Art (1993), barcode 761203911820

On Wergo:
6620-2. Loyang. Gasa. Réak. Shao Yang Yin. Tuyaux Sonore (1998), barcode 4010228662023 (this is the reissue of Wergo’s recordings from the LP era)

6639 2. Pièce Concertante, String Quartet V, Pezzo Fantasioso, Tapis, Teile dich nacht. Isang Yun Ensemble Pyongyang (1999), barcode 4010228663921

6716 2. Concertino (for accordion and string quartet), Intermezzo (for cello and accordion), Pezzo Fantasioso (for two instruments with bass ad libitum), Duo (for viola and accordion). Stefan Hussong (accordion), Julius Berger (cello), Minguet Quartet (2010), barcode 401022671629

On the Swiss label Jecklin:
JD 718-2. Trio (for flute, violin, oboe). Sori (for flute). Königliches Thema (for violin). Piri (for oboe). 4 Inventionen (for flute and oboe). Saskia Filippini (violin), Verena Bosshart (flute), Omar Zoboli (oboe) (1997), barcode 742395171810

On the other hand, beware of:
EMG / Essential Media Classical 4942856 “Chamber Music: World Premiere Recordings”  (Königliches Thema for solo violin, Clarinet Quintet No. 1, Piri for clarinet solo, Duo for cello and harp, Rencontre for clarinet, harp and cello). Wilanow String Quartet, barcode 0894231398322. It is very badly listed (those works can’t be played only by the Wilanow String Quartet), I don’t know what that EMG / Essential Media is, I’ve found one website that said that it was a “manufactured-on-demand” CD and that had more detailed credits, and it turns out that it is a reissue from Col Legno AI 31 808 CD (see above). Better go to the source.


More on Isang Yun, including a more complete discography including the LPs, arranged by chronological order of release, on the website of the International Isang Yun Society


5 thoughts on “Isang Yun (1917-1995, Korean, German)”

  1. I have the Camerata 10-disk “Compositions” set and appreciate your sorting out the “Art” disks. I recently acquired the cpo performance of “My Land” and “Exemplum” thinking they were different performances from the Camerata and was surprised to learn they are the same. This seems odd to me, was there a contractual reason for two different labels issuing the same performance? I’m wondering if you have any insight into this.

    1. Hi Peter,

      thanks for your message… and welcome to a fellow Yun-lover,

      No I have no special insight on why Cpo published the same recording as Camerata, but Camerata’s distribution being very much limited to the Far East (it is a Japanese label), it is customary for a label distributed only in one part of the world or one country to license their recordings to another label distributed in another part of the world. Since cpo had an ongoing Yun series, it isn’t entirely surprising that they would have licensed that recording from Camerata. On the other hand the rest of the cpo Yun recordings are purely cpo’s.

      A good source on all those details is the website of the Isang Yun Gesellschaft, International Isang Yun Society. They confirm (together with the fact that the cast is exactly the same) that both editions are the same recording. You’ll find the link at the end of this Isang Yun composer page.

  2. I’ve now listened to both the Camerata (from the 10-disk Compositions collection) and the CPO disk and can report that the CPO disk is pitched noticeably higher — and the track speeds are shorter (“Exemplum” is 20:00 on CPO and 20:43 on Camerata — the same goes for “My Land,” the CPO disk is pitched higher and the timings for each movement are shorter). This would suggest that this is an analog recording that was mastered at a slower speed on Camerata and a faster speed on CPO. I’m in the process of tracking down a copy of the score so I can confirm what the pitches are supposed to be — assuming that the orchestra was tuned to A440, this may help us determine which CD better represents the performance.
    If before I was curious, now I am fascinated — perhaps someone realized that the initial CD release was mastered at the wrong speed and corrected it for the later issue. I’m primarily a jazz collector and I’m well aware that old recordings from the 78 era have been digitized at different pitches — the more scholarly labels make a point of “pitch-correcting” their recordings, that is, altering the speed until the pitch conforms to A440, in an effort to reproduce the recording at the correct tempo. (Of course if the band’s tuning was sharper or flatter than A440 then such an adjustment would be erroneous.) Famously most LP issues of the classic Miles Davis album “Kind of Blue” had side B mastered too fast — later CD issues have corrected this and people who grew up with the LP may find the second half of the CD slower than they’ve grown used to. Anyway, I have much less experience as a collector of “notated” (classical) music, so I don’t know if this is a common issue with late-20th C. analog recordings!

    1. I’ve just written to my correspondent at the Internationale Isang Yun Gesellschaft to inquire about this. Stay tune. As for your general comment about pitch issues when transferring old recordings, yes, this is famously known in Classical music too. The old Boston Symphony Orchestra under Koussevitsky is one of the famous cases – Boston pitch was very high, but modern transfers neglect that.

      A related point is that, when you played LPs on your turntable (and I suppose the same was true with 78s, but I’ve never dealt with them), they never, in my experience, ran at correct pitch. I don’t know if it was a problem with the way tapes were transferred to LP, or with the revolving speed of turntables. I suspect in fact the latter, and I suspect that the fact that electricity in Europe is at 50Hz while it is 60 in the US may be a factor. This is just conjecture on my part, I’m not an electronician.

      Anyway, when you played LPs on your turntable, your were pretty sure you weren’t running exactly at proper pitch. AND the fact that, when the stylus approaches the end of the groove, where the revolutions are shorter, pitch changed as well.

      Using basic softwares like Audacity, I’ve transferred myself some old LPs and adjusted speed and pitch, taking my clue, sometimes in the timings indicated by the LP, sometimes based on pitch.. I can tell you that the speed increase to raise pitch a mere semi-tone makes A HELL of a difference. It entirely changes the character of the interpretation and music ! And the effect on voices is even more radical. It’ls change a mezzo into a soprano, and a sensuous soprano into a girlish soprano.

      1. Well, there you go: “Camerata Tokyo (CMT) runs at the right pitch _ there was a misunderstanding with classic produktion osnabrück (cpo) when the tape had beend sended and it’s slightly higher … “

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