Jennifer Koh’s Bach & Beyond Part 3 is out now
Jennifer Koh’s Bach & Beyond Part 3, out now on on Cedille Records, concludes her critically acclaimed series of recordings based on her groundbreaking, multi-season recital series of the same name that The New York Times has called “indispensable.”
Koh, “a virtuoso with quirky and wonderful ideas” (San Francisco Chronicle), again pairs two of J.S. Bach’s landmark Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin with Bach-inspired 20th- and 21st-century works. On this series-finale album, Bach’s florid and fanciful Sonata No. 2 in A minor and Sonata No. 3 in C major, celebrated for its colossal Fuga movement, frame Luciano Berio’s expressive, chaconne-like Sequenza VIII and Pulitzer Prize winner John Harbison’s alluring For Violin Alone, a dance suite inspired by Bach’s partitas, written for Koh (a world-premiere recording).
Koh says the initiative aspires to “strengthen the connection between our past and present worlds through a historical journey” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s early-18th-century sonatas and partitas for solo violin to Bach-inspired music of the 20th and 21st centuries, including recently commissioned works. “My Bach and Beyond project presents the works of Bach that I have long loved, in communion with the music of contemporary composers who I am dedicated to championing.”
Toronto’s The WholeNote said of Koh’s previous installment, Bach & Beyond Part 2, “Koh, as always, is superb, her intelligence and interpretation always matching her outstanding technique,” while the Newark Star-Ledger cited “her distinctive voice over a range of styles” in its praise of Bach & Beyond Part 1, which launched the series. Bach & Beyond Part 3 is Koh’s 14th Cedille Records album.
The best classical recordings of 2020
Violinist Koh concludes her epic traversal of solo violin repertoire with music of J.S. Bach, Luciano Berio and John Harbison. The point in this two-CD set, and in the series’ previously released Parts 1 and 2, is to show the enduring vitality of a tradition that dates back to the baroque but can speak urgently via contemporary composers. Koh makes this case through performances bristling with intellectual rigor, tonal depth and technical elan. In all, a monumental achievement.
“Throughout these first-rate performances, Koh takes her time, to the benefit of the music — no rushing, no gratuitous theatrics — and yet is fully capable of exploding into an energetic fury of bow and fingers that leaves you impressed with both the violin and Koh’s command of its unique voice and power.”
“…Koh certainly has the measure of this demanding piece [Berio’s Sequenza VIII], and steers a sure course through its many episodes, bringing vivid character to each, and steady momentum to the whole. John Harbinson’s For Violin Alone, written for Koh in 2015, is a seven-movement work in a broadly tonal, astringent idiom, with the spirits of Bach’s Partitas close by … They are constantly inventive and attractive, and Koh plays them with aplomb…”
“Jennifer Koh does it again! . . . Koh has carefully programmed the pairings on the present 2-CD offering in the interest of discovering some congenial and unexpected likenesses.”
Atlanta Audio Club
“All told this is a superior, stimulatingly music volume of violin superlatives. Jennifer Koh is in her element, singing and articulately singular in a program that stands out for the what AND the how. Highly recommended.”
Classical Modern Music Review
“…A strong proponent of new music, Koh has succeeded in revealing Bach’s connection to each of these composers. From the start, Bach’s intense longing, soaring lyricism, and mind-boggling counterpoint come brilliantly to life. Music from the 19th to 21st centuries takes listeners to places the Baroque master could never have imagined…”
Classical Voice North America
“…Koh is not only a phenomenal virtuoso—really few in the world can match her—but one of radiant intelligence and innate understanding of every piece she attempts…. I can’t think of a better way to end this remarkable three-disc effort, recommended to all with a good degree of urgency.”
“…her nine-year recording project pairing the six sonatas and partitas with modern and contemporary solo violin works provides some interesting insights, as well as sensitive and first-class performances to treasure. … Koh’s superb talents as a soloist are only matched by her work in expanding the solo violin repertoire by commissioning new works…”
“…this world-premiere recording ought to impress the armchair listener with the zest and commitment evident in Koh’s performance. “For Violin Alone” may be destined for long life even if the recital stage remains its only venue — given an artist of this caliber. And the three “Bach & Beyond” albums will endure as a recording project at the heights of 21st-century violin playing.”
Jay Harvey Upstage
“Violinist Jennifer Koh completes her outstanding solo series Bach & Beyond with Part 3 Bach – Harbison – Berio … Koh, as always, is faultless in her technique and sensitive and intelligent in her interpretations. .. [the] three-volume Bach & Beyond set has brilliantly realized her desire to “strengthen the connection between our past and present worlds through a historical journey.” It’s an outstanding addition to the solo violin discography.”
The Whole Note