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Susan Ung
performing Spiral XI in Siem Reap, Cambodia


Read Article published in
Music of the Spirit: Asian-Pacific Musical Identity

"Performance Challenges in the Music of Chinary Ung"
Susan Ung with Adam Greene


"The highlight of the concert was the world premiere of Chinary Ung’s Singing Inside Aura (2013) with the composer’s wife Susan as the fearless soloist. Ung’s powerful and dramatic work set a unique solo part against kaleidoscopic orchestral colors and textures. Throughout the entire piece, Susan sang complex heterophony against her own viola part, which she played with great assurance and expression. The demanding vocal part explored a wide range in pitch and intensity, and had Susan communicating to her audience in Cambodian-inflected phonemes, with smatterings of Sanskrit, here and there. Her performance was a tour de force..."
(Stephanie Griffin, "February is Viola Month!"Momenta Quartet, February 19, 2013)
Full review

"The instrumental solo part is perhaps not as virtuosic, in isolation, as in conventional concertos, but Susan Ung, who makes this kind of vocal-instrumental combination a specialty, performed both parts together in an act of supreme virtuosity, with intensity and power. Rose, obviously also fully engaged, led a slam-bang and well-shaped orchestral performance."
(Vance R. Koven, "Roseate Ensemble: Violas Consort with BMOP", The Boston Musical Intelligncer, February 17, 2013)
Full review

" On Friday night, in Susan Ung’s riveting performance, the piece felt like an avant-garde court ritual from a vanished world."
(Jeremy Eichler, "BMOP gives the viola its moment in the sun," The Boston Globe, Feb. 18, 2013)

"...but at other times she played variations or counterpoints to what she was singing, no small feat".
(David Wright, "It's 'Voilà Viola!' night at Boston Modern Orchestra", Boston Classical Review, February 16, 2013)
Full review.

"...Susan sings and plays the Cambodian melodies, dramatic, tense, building with bright sustained chords. There is time for long, slow breaths. Within the movement, the melody is often in unisons, initiated by the flutes, with spectral chords, sci-fi-like. There’s always the slow pulse underpinning the glissandi. Sometimes you feel what seems to be the mood of Chinese opera. Later, the melody becomes almost a torch song. The drums insert themselves. There are bells. Then there’s an ever-falling downward curve, always moving to a new chord, theremin-like, to a quiet denouement, with her own whistling. It’s a really interesting piece, and Susan Ung carries it very well." (BMOP, STYLUS REVIEWS VOILÀ! VIOLA! February 15, 2013)
Full review

"...Spiral XI : Mother and Child is a mostly quiet, meditative work in which a solo viola plays a long line, very gradually-built melody not unlike a lullaby in its impact. The violist sings a separate line against the viola melody that – at first – seems quite disconnected and eventually comes closer in a sort of bonding with the viola; almost symbolic, like the natural and permanent bond between a mother and her child. This very plaintive work is performed here, wonderfully, by the composer’s wife, Susan Ung." (Daniel Coombs, Audiofile Audition, September 26, 2012)
Full review

"The highlight of the concert’s first half was Susan Ung’s performance of Spiral XI: “Mother and Child” (2007)..."
(Arlene & Larry Dunn, "Confluence and Synchronicity: Ensemble dal Niente performs Chinary Ung at High Concept Laboratories," I Care if You Listen, Sept. 21, 2012)
Full Review

"...'Spiral XI: Mother and Child,' composed for and performed (superbly) by Ung's wife, Susan, sounded like a microtonal deconstruction of unaccompanied Bach, paralleled by the violist's own Southeast Asian vocalizations."
(Joe Banno," In Performance: Chinary Ung," The Washington Post; Classical Beat, May 24, 2010)
Full review

"You want uncompromising, try UCSD’s Chinary Ung, whose AKASA: “Formless Spiral” was a truly difficult, confounding, provocative work. It’s best to just give in to Ung’s music, expertly played (and sung) by violist Susan Ung, Man, and Real Quiet (with cellist Felix Fan, pianist Stephen Gosling and percussionist Cossin) and watch the fragments of sound go by like clouds in the sky. " (Jim Chute, "COMPOSER BRETT DEAN EXPOSES HIMSELF", UT San Diego, Aug. 22, 2010)
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"Initially scored for cello, “Khse Buon” (1980) ... It is played with impressive control and commitment by violist Susan Ung, the composer’s wife." (Edith Eisler, "Chinary Ung Finds His Multi-Cultural Voice," All Things Strings, July 2009.)
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"The deeper viola sounds on Khse Buon, which was initially written for cello, are exploited by Susan Ung, as she patiently constructs long tones strung together with plucked, percussion inserts; spirited; choppy or spare sounds; and yearning East Indian or Koto-like sounds with Arabic legato."
(Michaek G. Nastos, AllMusic)
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