Panufnik Legacies III: Donghoon Shin

Following the recent release of the third album in the Panufnik Legacies series, which features brand new music from alumni of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme, we asked the composers themselves to tell us a little more about their experience writing for and recording with the Orchestra.


DonghoonShin 350x350'Looking back, the three-year period I spent on the LSO Panufnik scheme was perhaps the most important in my life as a composer. I wrote two pieces for the LSO, In This Valley of Dying Stars for my first workshop with them and Kafka’s Dream commissioned by the orchestra for the premiere on the 24 March 2019 at the Barbican.

I was going through a bit of a crisis when I got selected to participate in the Panufnik Composers Scheme in 2016. Although I had past commissions from groups such as Ensemble InterContemporain, Royal Philharmonic Society/Philharmonia Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, I was no longer happy with the works I had produced. I wanted to break out of the influences of my musical heroes – especially György Ligeti – and to write something new. And for that, I needed time to reflect. Why did a teenage boy who dreamt of being a jazz or pop musician decide to become a composer of classical music? Where did I come from and what was at the beginning?

The answer was Gustav Mahler and Alban Berg. I was 12 or 13 years old when the first movement of Mahler’s 9th Symphony, played by the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan, came on the radio. It must have been this legendary recording that sparked in me the first wish to compose. I then discovered Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto and Three Pieces for Orchestra. I was completely absorbed by those pieces of music and could not tell why. Years later, I turned to the scores of Mahler and Berg and there I found what had fascinated me; linear writing, complex polyphony, elaborate counterpoint and the skilful control of the harmony.

I decided to write more linear, lyrical and polyphonic music. The two Panufnik Composer Scheme workshops offered the best possible opportunity to listen to my work, played by the very best orchestra and conductor, and to experiment and improve.

Retrospectively, In This Valley of Dying Stars had many technical flaws. However, fortunately, I had the best orchestra in the world working with me, so during the scheme, I had the chance to improve my skills and fix the flaws. And finally, when I received the 10-minute commission, I was able to come closer to my musical vision. It was Kafka’s Dream.

Kafka’s Dream has become my most popular piece to date. Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra are giving its Asian premiere in November this year with their Principal Conductor Osmo Vänskä, and it will also be heard in Germany next year in Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne’s 2020/21 season programme with the very generous support of their artistic director François-Xavier Roth. On top of that, I just had the honour of receiving the Critics’ Circle Music Award 2019 for emerging voices for this piece.

My development as a composer would not have been possible without the support of the fantastic musicians of the LSO and Maestro François-Xavier Roth. Colin Matthews, composition director of the Panufnik scheme, also gave me the most invaluable advice and generous help. I cannot thank them enough.

Two pieces that I am working on these days – my first violin concerto, due to be premiered in November, and an orchestral piece scheduled in May 2021 - are part of the ongoing exploration that was initiated by the Panufnik Composers Scheme. My journey continues.


Listen to Donghoon Shin's In This Valley of Dying Stars on Apple Music now


Panufnik Legacies III Album CoverPanufnik Legacies III

Each year the LSO's Panufnik Composers Scheme gives six composers the chance to write for a world-class symphony orchestra, under the guidance of our Principal Guest Conductor Francois-Xavier Roth and composers Colin Matthews and Christian Mason. Launched in 2005, the scheme was devised in association with Lady Camilla Panufnik to celebrate the musical legacy left behind by her husband, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, and to give new generations of composers new opportunities to develop their skills. Since then, over 80 composers have participated and the Orchestra has released several albums showcasing the work of these incredible new talents.

The third album in our Panufnik Legacies series features new music from Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ewan Campbell, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Donghoon Shin, Alex Roth, Matthew Sergeant, Patrick Giguère, Sasha Siem, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Michael Taplin, Benjamin Ashby & Joanna Lee.

This recording has been generously supported by The Boltini Trust. The LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme is generously supported by Lady Hamlyn and The Helen Hamlyn Trust.

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