Violinist Jennifer Koh to Perform with New York Philharmonic, 1/24-26
Violinist and new music advocate Jennifer Koh will make her subscription series debut with the New York Philharmonic in January performing Chain 2: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra by Polish conductor Witold Lutoslawski. She will perform the piece at three concerts: Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, January 25 at 8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, January 26 at 8:00 p.m. The concerts will be held in Avery Fisher Hall and will be conducted by the orchestra's former music director, Lorin Maazel. The concerts open with Tchaikovsky's Romeo & Juliet, Overture-Fantasy and conclude with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5.
Ms. Koh's three New York Philharmonic performances of Chain 2 are part of a worldwide commemoration of the centennial of Lutoslawski's birth. She will also perform the work with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London with conductor Esa Pekka-Salonen on March 21, 2013. Earlier this season Ms. Koh, who is an Oberlin Conservatory alumnus, performed the work with the Oberlin Orchestra in Cleveland.
"I find late compositions by composers fascinating because there's the idea of memory," says Ms. Koh. "Lutoslawski suffered a great deal in his lifetime and it's interesting because he moved away in his middle period from this idea of folk songs and this idea of Bartok, which at the time was kind of imposed on composers of his generation. What's interesting with Chain 2 is that you see him returning to that voicing, but on his own terms."
Although she will perform the piece repeatedly this season, each performance will be unique due to the composer's directive to play the piece "Ad Libitum." In Chain 2, while the music is fully notated, the conductor does not keep time, but cues the entrances for the different players, who then proceed at their own pace outside of any metrical divisions. This allows the violin soloist to perform freely, as if in a cadenza, without needing to be precisely synchronized with the orchestra.
Mike Telin of ClevelandClassical.com described Ms. Koh's Oberlin performance as "mesmerizing": "Throughout the work it was clear that Koh understands that "Ad Libitum" is not a synonym for "free-for-all" as she paid close attention to the work's harmonic and rhythmic structure, easily handling the many difficult technical demands the piece threw at her."
Championing a contemporary violin work is in character for Ms. Koh. Her efforts to expand the violin repertoire have resulted in established relationships with many of today's composers, and she regularly commissions and premieres new works. In addition to premiering Anna Clyne's double violin concerto and Phil Kline's Partita for solo violin this season, Ms. Koh performed David Ludwig's double violin concerto in June 2012. She is the only violinist other than Lorin Maazel to perform his violin concerto, which she performed with Mr. Maazel conducting at the 2011 Castleton Festival.
In October Ms. Koh released the first of three recordings for Cedille Records based on her inventive solo violin recital project called Bach and Beyond that explores the history of the solo violin repertoire from Bach's six Sonatas and Partitas to modern day composers, including newly commissioned works. The works on Bach & Beyond Part 1 include Bach's Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006, Eugène Ysaÿe's Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 27, Kaija Saariaho's Nocturne, Missy Mazzoli's Dissolve, O My Heart - a world premiere recording - and Bach's Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004. The album was recently named one of the Best Classical Music Recordings of 2012 by The New York Times.