Jennifer Koh's Bach & Beyond Part 1 Out on CD Today, 10/30
Violinist Jennifer Koh brings her Bach and Beyond recital concept to CD with Bach & Beyond Part 1, released by Cedille Records. The album is the first in a three-part series of studio recordings based on her challenging and inventive recital series 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 album is currently available for digital download and will be available on CD today, October 30.
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.
Ms. Koh is recognized for her bold performance style, dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance. She is forward-thinking in her approach to presenting classical music in a relatable, modern way and passionate about her instrument and performing works that speak to her. The exploration of Bach's music and its influence in today's musical landscape has played an important role in Ms. Koh's artistic journey. She explains the inspiration for her Bach and Beyond series in the preface to the CD liner notes: "I have always believed that music is a direct conversation and reflection of the world we live in. Having grown up in a time when many declared classical music a dead art form, I found it necessary to understand my commitment to this art form and why I believe classical music is relevant and meaningful to today's society. For me, contemporary music recreates the thread the connects us to past works of art and ultimately shapes how we listen to and perform music from all time periods…The Bach and Beyond project presents the Bach works I have long loved in communion with contemporary music by composers I am dedicated to."
"Music by J.S. Bach resonates throughout this first recording in the project," writes Alison Ames in the CD notes, adding, "The entire program itself is not unlike a very large-scale suite." Bach & Beyond Part 1 opens with Bach's Partita No. 3, a seven movement suite of dances, followed by Ysaÿe's second Sonata which begins with the tune that opens the Preludio of that Bach work, with the rest of the work largely based on the melody of the Dies Irae chant. Missy Mazzoli's Dissolve, O My Heart, titled after an aria in Bach's Saint John Passion, was commissioned for Ms. Koh by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The piece begins on a resonant and evocative D minor chord – the same one that opens the Chaconne of Bach's Partita No. 2. Following Ms. Koh's 2011 premiere of the work, Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed wrote, "Mazzoli's daunting ghost was the D minor Chaconne [of Bach's Partita No. 2]. She began with Bach's chord, then went her own way in a beautifully structured score…with compelling complexity, alluring sliding tones and an exquisite flamboyance designed for Koh's virtuosity. The performance was exciting, with horsehair, shorn from the violin bow, fluttering in the wind." Kaija Saariaho's Nocturne, in Memory of Witold Lutoslawski opens with the familiar notes of Bach's Partita No. 3, then "swirls and skitters around selected pitches, couched in a variety of tonal effects," wrote Art Lange in Fanfare in July 2000. Ms. Koh closes the album with Bach's Partita No. 2, with the celebrated Chaconne.
Bach & Beyond Part I was produced and engineered by Judith Sherman at sessions at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City in November 2011 and January 2012. Ms. Koh launched Bach and Beyond in 2009 in commemoration of the 325th anniversary of Bach's birth and has since performed the program worldwide. The recitals have been praised as "thoughtful and engaging" (San Francisco Chronicle), "a daring and intelligent thematic menu played with uncommon taste, flair and expressive acuity" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and "a fascinating musical journey" (Edinburgh News). She has performed Bach and Beyond recitals worldwide, including in New York, San Francisco, Ann Arbor, Santa Barbara, Portland, ME, at Oberlin College, Amherst College, UNC Chapel Hill, and at the Lammermuir Festival in Scotland.
During the 2012-13 season, Ms. Koh performs the second recital in the series, Bach and Beyond Part II, which connects Bach's Sonata No. 1 and Partita No. 1 to Bartók's Sonata for solo violin and Phil Kline's new work Partita for solo violin, commissioned for the recital. The Kline work will receive its world premiere as part of Bach and Beyond Part II at The Royal Conservatory in Toronto on November 11, 2012. Subsequent performances of Bach and Beyond will take place at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI on November 18; Troy, NY on November 30; La Jolla, CA on February 2, 2013; Seattle, WA on February 7; Orono, ME on February 24; at the 92nd Street Y in New York on March 2; and in Santa Barbara, CA on April 24. Ms. Koh will perform both Part I and II at Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, MD on November 14, 2012 and February 28, 2013 respectively.
The Bach and Beyond CD programs will diverge in some respects from the corresponding concert programs because Ms. Koh recorded a number of the concert works on previous Cedille albums.
Bach & Beyond Part 1 is Ms. Koh's seventh recording for the Cedille label. Her other albums on the label include Rhapsodic Musings: 21st Century Works for Solo Violin and a Grammy-nominated recording, String Poetic, featuring the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's work for which the album is named, performed with pianist Reiko Uchida.