The Washington Examiner
By Marie Gullard
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June 9, 2011

Koh and the NSO introduce the 'Juggler'

Violinist Jennifer Koh has arrived at an ideal point in her career. She has the power of choice on her side, along with a determination to bring new composers to the stage

"What's incredible about music is that sometimes it predicts who we will become and the language that we will come to understand in the future," the 30-something musician pointed out. "I only play composers that I really believe in and that really speak to me."

Augusta Thomas is one of those composers. As such, Koh and the National Symphony Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach, will perform the American premier of Thomas' Violin Concerto No. 3, "Juggler in Paradise," this weekend in the Kennedy Center.

Coincidently, the violin concerto was co-commissioned in tandem with the Festival Presences with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the BBC Proms, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Brown and the National Symphony Orchestra. The piece premiered in 2009 with Andrey Boreyko conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique and Frank Peter Zimmermann as soloist, in the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

A mere 19 minutes in duration, Thomas uses the dynamics of sound in an untraditional way, and, according to Thomas May, NSO program annotator, "Eight players in the very back of the orchestra sit in a semicircle to form a 'wall or screen' of sound embracing the orchestra and soloist to achieve the precise musical effects she desires."

And for Koh, that effect is endlessly fascinating.

"Augusta Thomas actually told me that she hears and sees sound as increased colors in her life," Koh said. "It's interesting that you can hear, within the orchestra and myself, how we juggle different methods of music. In 'Paradise' she writes [of] this celestial world in the opening of the piece that is just wonderful."

Wonderful, too, is the challenge Koh finds inherent in every piece of music, whether it be a centuries-old Bach sonata or a two-year-old violin concerto.

"In a sense it's like getting to know another human being; sometimes it takes a little bit of time and patience. With Augusta, I felt I could relate to [the piece] very immediately," she mused.

Schumann's Overture to Die Braut von Messina, Op. 100 (a premier for the NSO) and his Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61 are also on the evenings' repertoire.

© 2011 The Washington Examiner

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