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Jeajoon RYU (b. 1970)
Cello Concerto Lacrima (2010) [28:29]
Marimba Concerto (2015) [29:26]
Overture: Il Nome Della Rosa [9:47]
Arto Noras (cello)
June Moon Kyung Hahn (marimba)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Grzegorz Nowak
rec. 2016, Henry Wood Hall, London

This South Korean composer studied in Seoul and later with Penderecki at Krakow Music Academy. He has a penchant for Italian titles. Several substantial works of his were issued on a Naxos CD in 2008. That disc was reviewed here and the music then found to be "oddly uninvolving". His musical language is pertinaciously Western European neo-romantic and lacily impressionistic. Another reviewer warmed to the Violin Sonata.

Jeajoon Ryu's Cello Concerto Lacrima is not especially lachrymose. It does however play to the instrument's gentler constituency in much the same way as the Moeran and Delius concertos. The cello does not present as an adversary; the two elements (solo and orchestra) are playing to the same page. The four movement titles are laden with expressive marks with the composer is diligent in flagging his intentions. It's an almost Delian world but this is Delius with movement. The middle movements are all Gallic fairy-wing gossamer. Ryu has a gift for delicacy and vulnerability. He ends the work with a sighing descent into dreamland. All credit to him for choosing to end the Concerto in a passive gesture. The decision rings with total sincerity and truth with the music never at adds with what has gone before. Ryu must have been delighted with the involvement of Arto Noras - the cellist par excellence

The Marimba Concerto continues the mood with the marimba dreamy rather than in the listener's face. The ideas feel oddly Franckian at times - that French connection once more. The thoughtful and technically strong June Moon Kyung Hahn takes a place somewhat back from the orchestra. For much of the time hers is a gentle, even submissive role. Yet this is a big work; within a stone's-throw of half an hour. The central Andante is a Threnody to the Victims of the Sewol Ship (a capsized South Korean ferry disaster taking the lives of 304 in 2014). The finale has more intensely strenuous writing but always couched in undulating and curvaceously tonal language.

The Overture Il nome della rosa is the overture to an opera based on Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Ryu here shows himself a master of dark emotional torment. The work's high singing violins (5:15) laced with Shostakovich-like acid suggest a distant glimmering vision. The overture bows out as peacefully as the Cello Concerto.

The conductor is the RPO's 'own' Grzegorz Nowak who has laboured extensively with the orchestra in cycles of Brahms, Schumann and Tchaikovsky. All credit to him, the RPO and its own label for persisting with more exotic repertoire including Kletzki and Karłowicz. Nowak's accomplishments in this direction are also borne out by earlier discs of Czerny Symphonies 2 and 6 on Hänssler-SWR and before that a collection of Polish Romantic era music on CD Accord.

There's a 16-page leaflet providing a little background on Ryu. As for the recording, it is good as is to be expected from the experienced Mike Hatch. He provides a good context for the appreciation of this subtle and moody tonal music.

Rob Barnett



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