The Washington Post
By Andrew Lindemann Malone
May 7, 2007
Violinist Jennifer Koh has a penetrating intelligence that drives her to find new approaches to familiar works. So when she played Jean Sibelius's Violin Concerto with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra under Music Director Jose-Luis Novo in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on Friday night, she made every phrase of her solo part sound new and urgent: shifting accents, lingering in unexpected places, creating mini-climaxes within phrases, and varying her tempo freely to suit her expressive needs. At any given moment you didn't know what she would do next, but you could bet it would be fascinating.
Koh played with so much freedom, in fact, that she and the orchestra went out of sync a few times, and the rhythmic pulse of the faster music occasionally disappeared, especially at her slow tempos.
Ultimately, though, Koh's white-hot imagination and her focused, sweet-toned playing made this a performance to remember.
The ASO showed its technical chops in the other works on Friday's program, the orchestra's last of the season. Silvestre Revueltas's "Sensemaya" sounded appropriately pungent, but Novo's deliberate pace damped its excitement a bit. Principal horn Steven Barzal acquitted himself well in the ridiculously difficult solo that opens Richard Strauss's "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks," and Novo led a reading full of merriment and vivid incidents.
The high spirits carried over to a sparkling performance of Paul Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber." Novo and the ASO brought out the droll wit of the second movement, especially in the jazzy central fugue, and infused the long lyrical paragraphs of the third movement with tender poetry.
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