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String Poetic

06.01.08
Jennifer Koh
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Jennifer Koh, violin; Reiko Uchida piano.

Though this disc contains works by such major names as John Adams (Road Movies) and Carl Ruggles (Mood, assembled from the composer's sketches), its distinctively exotic tint is decisively established by Jennifer Higdon's String Poetic and Lou Harrison's Grand Duo. Both are major works in the violinpiano repertoire, and share an exoticism that echoes music of the Pacific Rim.

You expect that from the West Coast-based Harrison (whose Grand Duo is from his top drawer and so buoyant that it was once choreographed by Mark Morris) but not necessarily from Philadelphia-based Higdon. Her piece contains one of her searching slow movements full of modal scales that don't point to any predictable destination. Dampened piano strings create particularly entrancing effects. Though Koh can be a relentless powerhouse virtuoso, these performances feel intimate and nuanced.