Rhapsodic Musings: Works for solo violin by Salonen, Carter, Thomas & Zorn

03.31.10
Jennifer Koh
BBC Music Magazine

By Neil Smith

Unaccompanied recitals provide their own particular challenges for performer and listener alike: a limited sound-world can mean the music loses its ability to surprise. In this instance, however, Jennifer Koh rises to the challenge with careful programming and, above all, fiercely committed performances.

Few violinists can make Carter sound so effortless, leading the ear through the complex invention of his Four Lands, the third of which gives this disc its title. Rhapsodic elements are also key to Salonen’s lonely Lachen Verlernt, an impressive span of increasing intensity that, in tender moments, echoes Sibelius.  Tal Rosner’s video accompaniment, also available on the CD, comprises a surprisingly literal play of lines, colour – latterly – light.

The final work, Zorn’s Goetia, is the most extreme exploration of the violin’s abilities. Each short movement presents a different character – quite an achievement when they use the same 227 pitches as a repeated ‘incarnation’ (the title relates to a system of black magic).  It is a fantastic conclusion to an authoritative disc.