By David Hurwitz
October 10, 2016
Jennifer Koh really is an exceptional violinist. Up to this point, most of her recordings have featured mixtures of new and old music which, however intelligently planned, were not exactly destined to attract the audience for the popular classics. Here, however, on a well-filled disc no less smartly assembled, she has the opportunity to attract a larger following, and on evidence here she deserves to.
This program contains all of Tchaikovsky’s music for solo violin and orchestra. The concerto is gorgeously played. Koh isn’t just technically polished, but she has a genuinely beautiful tone, smooth throughout the instrument’s entire range and at all dynamic levels. It retains its sweetness even when muted, as in the Canzonetta, and her double stops are so in tune and so devoid of harshness that they sound like single tones. She doesn’t “attack” the concerto, but plays with a light touch, never stinting the lyricism–but at the same time never turning sticky. This may not be the most “Russian” sounding interpretation, but it is distinctive, songful, exciting (in the finale), and a wholly legitimate, personal view.
Souvenir d’un lieu cher, in Glazunov’s orchestration, is also a major work. If the opening Meditation has ever been more beautifully sung-out, I haven’t heard it. The scherzo is dashing, and the concluding Melodie another example of Koh’s ability to sustain a genuine cantabile line. The program opens with the two shorter works, lovely hors d’oeuvres whetting the appetite for the larger courses to come. Alexander Vedernikov leads the Odense Symphony with the expected expertise, but the focus remains, rightly, on Koh. She really is a star; perhaps this beautifully engineered release will serve notice.
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