Pièce concertante -
Isang Yun

The work's title refers to the early history of the genre: the confrontation of instrumental choirs with solo instruments, from which the concerto genre emerged in the 17th century.

The work is composed of three equally important sound layers. The basic layer is played by strings, to which woodwind (the flute and clarinet) are opposed, usually in parallel motion. The piano and percussion make up the third, intermediate layer. ese three groups of sounds are presented simultaneously and successively, with every musician also acting as a soloist.

Yun develops the fundamental principle of concertising in "rivalling" sound processes: the solo instruments and the economical use of a wide range of percussion instruments allow for the presentation of ever newer timbres and instrumental combinations. The concertising gesture is then extended through the second dramaturgic principle: aiming at a timbral proximity and (partial) amalgamation of contradictory material. Moving through many different development stages, the dramaturgy leads to a condensation and integration, intensification, levelling, and the unity of contraries. At the beginning of this apparently one-movement work, yet planned over four sections with a total duration of 15 minutes, the composer presents in succession three layers (strings; piano and percussion; woodwind) using their typical (and hence contrasting) instrumental idioms: after the glissando gestures in the strings (backed by the piano) there arrives a fluid movement of "sound bridges" (Korean yonum) in the piano and percussion. The third layer to appear is a woodwind duo with gestures of signalling and calling out. At the end of this formal section, all three sound types are presented simultaneously for a few seconds: they meet while remaining within their own idioms.

The second section of the first part begins with a violin solo and reaches a climax at the first instance of sound groups getting together: backed by crotales, the gestures of woodwind and piano combines timbrally and rhythmically in a fortissimo rise, while simultaneously but independently the string intone their own material of vibrato and glissando gestures.

The sound layer created by strings, initially calm and quiet, gives rise to the first part's third section. Above it are continuous octaves of woodwind in sustained notes and melismas in the piano and vibraphone. Accompanied by temple blocks, gongs, and the piano, strings develop contrary forces, "looking for help in the depth" (Yun). At this stage, the composer combines gestures of strings with those of the piano and percussion.

Yun expresses the quest for unity in the slow movement, in which the previously shaped timbral layers give way to solo parts: after the part of solo flute comes a longer solo of the clarinet and an epilogue of triplet chains in the piano and vibraphone, creating a background for the solo parts of the double bass and cello.

The lively third movement beings with a glissando motif in the flute, a reminiscence of the dominating string figure. The clarinet and flute voices unite in a duo, to which short glissando comments in the strings are added. The drum's impulses announce the combination of strings and woodwind in increasing intensity, with the piano and vibraphone also participating. The unity reached here, however, turns out to be temporary: after the climax, sound groups again drift away in their opposed idioms. The troubled solo violin part with percussion is answered by woodwind trills. Violent gestures in the strings contrast with the broad rising gestures of the flute and clarinet.

The role of transition toward the final movement is played by a calm "sound isle": over the static surface of the strings resounds a piano solo with quiet percussion sounds (cymbals, gong, temple block, and vibraphone). The further homogenisation of timbre happens when the flutist and clarinettist switch to the alto flute and bass clarinet, respectively: their delicate duo in low register is followed by the piano, including in a two-voice dialogue in sustained notes. Strings join in an imitative texture of almost orchestral density: a process of common ascension is started. As the scores notes, "the strings' sound should be almost elegiac," precisely as if the amalgamation reached in the joint creation of timbre happened at the expense of individual freedom. is unity, again, is merely an appearance, as demonstrated by short stretti in which the groups move away from each other.

Walter­Wolfgang Sparrer