Positive Feedback, Issue 87
By Bob Neill
September 8, 2016
Tchaikovsky. Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra. Jennifer Koh, violin. Alexander Vedernikov, Odense Symphony Orchestra. Cedillw CDR 90000 166.
This album cannot help but be seen as a public test of whether one of our premier Bach violinists can muster the 'big tone' required for nineteenth century repertoire. Is she sufficiently versatile to join the ranks of the big time soloists of our day?
And the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, which is the feature of this album, wants not just the big tone but a lot more. In the extended famous and much beloved lyrical passages, it wants silver smooth tone—and the innate sense of judgment and control to keep them from going over the euphonic edge. And there's more: this classic war horse concerto demands the rare musical talent both to make it more than a war horse and to capture what made it a war horse to begin with.
Koh is fortunate (knowing) in having Vedernikov (with whom she has played before) and his orchestra here, though based on what we hear, she would likely do well with any first rate group. They are absolutely with her but her treatment and her eloquence clearly rule the performance.
So yes, she has what's called for, enough of everything to make this one of the most memorable performances of the Tchaikovsky I've heard in recent years. I think the best performances of this work, while they call for everything, tend to favor beauty and the litheness of a dancer over athletic vigor and that is exactly where Koh sits. She plays with a firm lightness (!) of touch that gives the music body but keeps it in the air. As we often say about Tchaikovsky, everything begins with dance.
There are three other Tchaikovsky works in the program which do no harm, which is to say they don't distract us from the entrée. Koh is good enough that she actually makes them sound interesting, which is always a challenge for an undercard.
It is gratifying to hear that Jennifer Koh is indeed the complete musician we had hoped she was. Cedille's starlet is now their full-fledged star. If she can play the Tchaikovsky like this (and Bach), she can do anything... and probably will.
System used for this audition is made up of a Resolution Audio Cantata CD player w/BlackJack power cord; Blue Circle NSC solid state preamplifier with NSL solid state amplifier; JM Reynaud Offrande Supreme, V2 loudspeakers; Crimson interconnects and speaker cable; Volex power cables, Mapleshade Samson equipment rack.
Bob Neill, a former equipment reviewer for Enjoy the Music and Positive Feedback, is proprietor of Amherst Audio in Western Massachusetts which sells equipment from Audio Note (UK), Blue Circle (Canada), Crimson (UK), Jean Marie Reynaud (France), Resolution Audio (US), and Tocaro (Germany).
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