Bach and Beyond, Part 1, J. Koh
(released on October 30, 2012)
Koh opened with Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E Major. She summoned a vigorous tone for the suite’s sunny, expansive Preludio. In the intimate Loure that followed, Koh set up an elegant rhythm but could have quieted her sound more; it was loud and a bit harsh even toward the back of the small room. From the partita Koh moved without pause into Belgian virtuoso Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 2 in A minor. This was an obvious pairing, since the sonata begins by quoting the partita’s opening phrase. But Ysaÿe soon turns away from Bach in frustration to brood over the medieval Dies Irae tune. What follows is not a particularly profound engagement with Bach but rather an undistinguished hodgepodge of overwrought late-Romantic sounds bites. Nonetheless, it served as a vehicle for Koh’s virtuosity, from the bleak strains of the second movement, played with a haunting, vibrato-free tone, to the third movement’s meaty pizzicatos.
Joan Reinthaler, ‘Bach and Beyond’: Jennifer Koh’s unsentimental guide to the composer’s legacy (Washington Post, November 16)