The New York Times
By Allan Kozinn
February 17, 2007
Music Review | 'Jennifer Koh'
Jennifer Koh’s violin recitals are consistently pleasing, not only because she is in command of a strong technique and a rich arsenal of tone, but also because she builds her programs thoughtfully, with a sensible balance of contemporary works and standard repertory.
There is something to be said, as well, for the collaboration she has cultivated with Reiko Uchida, the pianist who has accompanied her in recent years. Ms. Koh and Ms. Uchida seem always to be of one mind about the works at hand, and the interaction between them has an enlivening vibrancy.
The most striking work on their program at the 92nd Street Y on Wednesday evening was Jennifer Higdon’s “String Poetic” (2006), a piece commissioned for Ms. Koh by a consortium that included the Y. The movements of Ms. Higdon’s score carry impressionistic titles — “Climb Jagged” and “Blue Hills of Mist,” for example — and her tonal but rugged style is suited to the imagery they suggest.
In both “Climb Jagged” and its mirror image, “Jagged Climb” (they are the first and last of the five movements), the violin line is athletic and often brash, with scampering figures and chordal shards to paint the picture (and, secondarily, test the technique).
The equally picturesque piano writing included sections in which Ms. Uchida was asked to create a plucked sound by reaching inside the piano to damp the strings while playing her line, with her other hand, on the keyboard. The more meditative and ethereal “Blue Hills of Mist” is surrounded by a dark, lyrical Nocturne and a perpetual motion movement, “Maze Mechanical.”
Ms. Higdon’s score shared the first half of the program with a taut, assertive account of the Janacek Sonata (1914-21). Ms. Koh used her range of color to create at least the illusion of a cast of characters to inhabit the four movements, which are alive with the anxieties of the work’s time. (Janacek composed it during and after World War I.) Perhaps more subtly, Ms. Koh and Ms. Uchida kept Janacek’s musical language in perspective, caught as it is between Romanticism and early Modernism.
On her own, Ms. Koh gave an alternately forceful and sensitive performance of movements from Gyorgy Kurtag’s “Signs, Games and Messages” (1989-97) for solo violin. And Ms. Koh and Ms. Uchida played two 19th-century works, mingled among the contemporary scores almost as palate cleansers: a warm-toned, Classically proportioned account of Schubert’s Sonatina in D (D. 384), and a stormy, high-energy reading of Schumann’s Sonata No. 2 in D minor (Op. 121).
© 2007 The New York Times