The Denver Post
By Kyle MacMillan
January 15, 2011
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"Four Seasons" a triumph for violinist Jennifer Koh

Friday's sold-out Colorado Symphony concert made it clear why classics are classics: They never go out of fashion or lose their appeal.

That's certainly the case with the evening's headline selection — Antonio Vivaldi's ever-popular set of four violin concertos, "The Four Seasons," with Jennifer Koh making her overdue symphony debut as soloist.

This adventurous, in some ways underrated performer is not the first violinist one would necessarily associate with this mainstream work. But she turned out to have enormous affinity for it, turning in a performance that was nothing short of revelatory.

Koh has more than enough technique to deliver all the virtuoso flourishes the piece demands, from lightning runs to devilish articulations, but she made sure she was saying something musically and not just showing off.

She found the inner drama tucked into every twist and turn, bringing out passages than can all too easily be glossed over. Topping it all off were the stunning, sometimes suitably earthy tonal variations she drew from her violin.

Put simply, this was everything a solo performance in "The Four Seasons" should be — exhilarating, expressive and anything but perfunctory.

A considerable slice of the credit for this performance's success belongs as well to British conductor Matthew Halls, who also was making his symphony debut and is a potential candidate to fill the orchestra's vacant music-director position.

Halls, who has appeared twice with Central City Opera, is a baroque specialist, and he was in complete command here, balancing and supporting Koh's playing with vital, nuanced accompaniment marked by adroitly controlled dynamics and tempos.

If there was a blot on this version of "The Four Seasons," it was the odd decision to spread the set of four concertos across the entire program, interspersing them with works by Vivaldi's contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach.

It was not clear why this was done, and no explanation was given. The distracting approach, which required Koh to make four entrances and exits, inevitably broke up the continuity of the work.

The program will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

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