Jennifer Koh Premieres Suite From THE 38TH PARALLEL
On Monday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m., days after the release of her new, all-Saariaho album, violinist Jennifer Koh includes the composer's works on a program at Advent Lutheran Church headlined by the first-ever performance of music from The 38th Parallel, Ms. Koh's new collaboration with composer / multimedia artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière. The project, to receive its full premiere at a later date, explores their shared connections to the Koreas-Ms. Koh through her émigré parents, and Mr. Barrière through his grandmother's Korean partner, whom he considered his grandfather. Ms. Koh is joined in the suite by Davóne Tines (bass-baritone), Camilla Hoitenga (flute), Aaron Wunsch (piano), and Mr. Barrière (electronics). In addition to the music of Kaija Saariaho and Mr. Barrière, works by J.S. Bach are included on the program.
Admission is free and does not require a ticket, but seating capacity is limited. Doors open at 6:45 p.m., and reservations for admission are void after 7:20 p.m. For more information or to make reservations, visit musicmondays.org.
The 38th Parallel (???) is a large-scale work conceived in collaboration with composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and is named after the line of latitude separating North and South Korea. Subtitled A Contemporary Pansori (?? ???), the work incorporates this Korean genre of musical storytelling-including music, visual art, and movement-and follows the transformation of three generations of human lives, in an exploration of the impact of displacement and immigration, and individual and familial transformation.
Ms. Koh was born into a family of Korean immigrants in the U.S. Her parents were refugees during the Korean War-her father from Seoul and her mother from North Korea. Mr. Barrière was raised in part by his grandmother's Korean partner, whom Mr. Barrière considered his grandfather and who often listened to traditional Korean music at home-an early and important musical influence. The aural and visual material incorporated into the work are texts from the Koh and Barrière families and Korean poetry edited into a libretto by dramaturge Aleksi Barrière.
Ms. Koh also performs Mr. Barrière's Palimpsest Capriccio for violin and electronics, Ms. Saariaho's Tocar for violin and piano, and Bach's Violin Sonata in G minor, BWV 1001. The rest of the concert, performed by Ms. Koh's fellow artists on the program, comprises Mr. Barrière's Crossing the Blind Forest for flute and electronics, Ms. Saariaho's NoaNoa for flute and electronics and Changing Light for baritone and bass flute (new version premiere), and Bach's Flute Partita in A minor, BWV 1013.
The commissioning of Palimpsest Capriccio for Ms. Koh's Shared Madness project was the first time she had worked with Mr. Barrière as a composer. For this project, over 30 composers contributed short solo pieces for Ms. Koh that explore violin virtuosity in the 21st century. Reflecting Mr. Barrière's interest in electronic music from a young age, his piece includes electronics designed by him for live interaction with Ms. Koh. He says that the work is "not about effects; it's not about making a nice sound; it's really building something around you [Ms. Koh] ... you are the character."
The world premiere of Palimpsest Capriccio was recorded in May 2016 at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic's NY Phil Biennial. Click here to listen to the piece and a conversation between the composer and Ms. Koh as part of her WQXR New Sounds series, Shared Madness.
Ms. Saariaho's Tocar appears not only on this program, but also on Ms. Koh's all-Saariaho album, Saariaho X Koh, released by Cedille Records on November 9, the Friday before the concert. In both cases Ms. Koh performs the work with pianist Nicolas Hodges. Tocar is Spanish for "to touch," and according to the composer, who will be in attendance for the performance, the work is "about the encounter of two instruments as different as the violin and piano," asking the question: "how could they touch each other?"
Though Bach's violin sonatas are staples of the violin repertoire and regularly performed, Ms. Koh's performances have been particularly linked to her Bach and Beyond series of concerts and recordings. The project, launched in 2012, links the composer's landmark violin sonatas and partitas to contemporary works, including pieces by Ms. Saariaho, which appear on both Bach and Beyond recordings.
Jennifer Koh is recognized for intense, commanding performances, delivered with dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance. A forward-thinking artist, she is dedicated to exploring a broad and eclectic repertoire, while promoting diversity and inclusivity in classical music. She has expanded the contemporary violin repertoire through a wide range of commissioning projects, and has premiered more than 70 works written especially for her. Her quest for the new and unusual, sense of endless curiosity, and ability to lead and inspire a host of multidisciplinary collaborators, truly set her apart.
Ms. Koh was named Musical America's 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year, was a winner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and Concert Artists Guild Competition, and received an Avery Fisher Career Grant. Born in Chicago, She has a BA in English literature from Oberlin College and studied at the Curtis Institute, where she worked extensively with Jaime Laredo and Felix Galimir. She is an active lecturer, teacher, and Cedille Records recording artist; and is the Artistic Director of arco collaborative, an artist-driven nonprofit that fosters a better understanding of our world through a musical dialogue inspired by ideas and the communities around us. For further information, visit jenniferkoh.com.