Lammermuir Festival (3): Jennifer Koh Brings the House Down

23/09/2011

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Lammermuir Festival (3): Bach, Ysaÿe, Saariaho, Carter, Salonen: Jennifer Koh (violin). The Great Hall, Lennoxlove House, Haddington (Scotland). 20.09.2011 (LV)

Jennifer Koh at Lennoxlove House credit Robin Mitchell

Bach: Partita No 3 in E
Ysaÿe: Sonata No 2 in A minor
Saariaho: Nocturne: In memory of W. Lutosławski
Carter: Fantasy: Remembering Roger
Salonen: “lachen verlernt”
Bach: Partita No 2 in D minor

 At the Spaces of Music festival in Gniezno, I watched master class students of Yair Kless use relaxed bow arm and hands to miraculously free the music they were playing. So it was a shock on Tuesday night to witness Jennifer Koh’s titanic struggles on behalf of solo violin music, starting and ending with Bach, and in between, music connected by varying degrees of separation.

Perhaps it was the dramatic setting, the 14th century Great Hall at Lennoxlove in East Lothian, east of Edinburgh, with its two splendid stags on the wall behind her, rising on their hind legs rampant against the Inverquarity family crest and crown. Koh’s playing itself was no less rampant, injecting immense amounts of intense passion into the entire program. Gripping a bow in a crab-like vise, muscles standing out in her shoulders and arms as if she were an Olympic athlete, Koh gave Bach’s E Major Partita the ride of its life, then ripped without pause into the Ysaÿe Second Sonata, which begins by quoting the opening of the same Bach.

The music was all linked in some way: Bach to Ysaÿe, Saariaho to Lutosławski, Carter to Roger Sessions, Salonen to Schoenberg (Pierrot Lunaire), and Bach again to Salonen (each is dominated by a chaconne). The connections may have been remote to the audience, but Koh brought the kind of conviction and energy that overrode theory with deeply communicative music making, whether it was conventionally accessible Bach or the stark new frontiers of Saariaho.

Ultimately, neither the Saariaho Nocturne: In memory of W. Lutosławski (an exploration of early ideas for her violin concerto, Graal Théâtre), nor the Carter Fantasy: Remembering Roger (the last movement of his Four Lauds, which also honor Aaron Copland, Goffredo Petrassi and Robert Mann) was of more than passing interest. Salonen’s “lachen verlernt,” a serious 10-minute soliloquy on laughter, clowns and repressed emotions, was absorbingly cool, and seemed to have a calming effect on Koh.

The calm lasted after intermission through the first four movements of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor. Koh played in modified 20th-century mode, marginally aware of – but unconvinced by – authentic performance practice issues. Lines were smooth and phrasing throughout was deeply, if ascetically, poetic. The concluding Chaconne, however, reignited her ferocity and brought down the house with a rare Scottish standing ovation.

Laurence Vittes

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tamara Rojo’s new Raymonda and ENB in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Transitions Dance Company’s 2020 UK Tour from 21 Feb – 6 June __________________________________
  • NEW! Aldeburgh Festival from 12 – 28 June 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2020 from 29 April to 16 May in Leicester __________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera and more in Buenos Aires during 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Beethoven 250 at London’s Southbank Centre __________________________________
  • Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! YAN PASCAL TORTELIER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH UKRAINIAN SOPRANO LIUDMYLA MONASTYRSKA __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH CHINESE SOPRANO HUI HE __________________________________
  • NEW AND UPDATED! BEST OF 2019 FROM SOME OF OUR REVIEWERS __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR TOM HAMMOND IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • PIANIST JAMES LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month