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Jennifer Koh Concludes Her Six-Year Bach and Beyond Series

Laurie Niles

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Published: January 28, 2015 at 2:48 PM [UTC]

Why is Bach still relevant today?

This has been the subject of a six-year project for Grammy-nominated violinist Jennifer Koh, called Bach and Beyond, initially inspired by Bach's 325th birthday in 2010. The project took the form of a three-part series of recital programs that Jennifer devised, exploring the history of the solo violin repertoire by pairing Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas with related modern-day works and new commissions.

This weekend she celebrates the third and final installment of this series with a concert at 8 p.m. Saturday at 92Y in New York. She will take the recital program on the road, with "Bach and Beyond, Part III" recitals this spring at Oberlin College, at Strathmore Hall in North Bethesda, for the University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, for Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, and at the Athanaeum Music and Arts Library in La Jolla.

Jennifer Koh
Photo by Jeurgen Frank

"My initial hope for this project was to create programs that highlighted the rich possibilities for solo violin recitals," Jennifer said, "My personal goal was to make programs that create a historical journey that illustrates Bach's influence over repertoire written for solo violin and to expand that repertoire through new commissions."

The new commission for Saturday is the world premiere of John Harbison's "For Violin Alone," co-commissioned by 92Y. "I think there is definitely influence of Bach’s Partita form, as there are dance movements which are inspired by an array of American influences like folk and blues," Jennifer said of the new work. The program also includes Bach's Sonatas No. 2 and 3, and Berio's Sequenza VIII.

Importantly, Jennifer's "Bach and Beyond" project has been the inspiration and showcase for some wonderful new music and music-related projects, featuring the following world premieres over the last six years:

  • Tal Rosner (video artist)
    • Ligeti Synergy: Video art collaboration with Ligeti’s Violin Concerto, Poeme Symphonique, and Le Grande Macabre using motion capture with Tal Rosner, video artist (2016)
    • Violin/video collaboration project of Salonen’s lachen verlernt as part of Bach & Beyond Part 1 (Oct. 2009)
  • Kaija Saariaho
    • Recording of Frises for violin and electronics on Bach & Beyond Part Two (Spring 2015)
  • John Harbison
    • For Violin Alone as part of Bach & Beyond Part 3 at 92nd Street Y (Jan. 2015)
  • Phil Kline
    • Dead Reckoning: Partita for solo violin as part of Bach & Beyond Part 2 (Nov. 2012)
  • Missy Mazzoli
    • Recording of Dissolve, O my Heart for violin on Bach & Beyond Part 1 (Oct. 2012)
  • John Zorn
    • Passagen for solo violin at Miller Theatre (Dec. 2011) -- performing in Bach and Beyond Part Three

"I think my relationship with Bach is constantly evolving, and I am grateful to the new works from all the composers," Jennifer said. "I was incredibly happy to see how each composer took singular aspects of Bach and then made those works completely their own. It is inspiring to realize that everyone has truly individual responses to Bach’s music, whether it be composers, listeners or players. It’s a great testament to the depth in Bach’s music, but maybe even more importantly, it’s a testament to the evolution and relevancy of music."

* * *
Jennifer Koh plays Chaconne from Bach, Partita No. 2 in D minor

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