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Jennifer Koh Sultry in Szymanowski's Exotic Fantasy

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See my review of the National Symphony Orchestra published today at DCist:

DCist Goes to the Symphony: Jennifer Koh (DCist, June 18):

available at Amazon
Portraits (Concertos by Szymanowski, Martinů, Bartók), J. Koh, Grant Park Orchestra, C. Kalmar
For the last subscription concerts of the season, the National Symphony Orchestra brought guest conductor Juraj Valčuha to the podium last night, in an alluring program of Haydn, Szymanowski, and Mahler. This concludes a two-year interim period before incoming music director Christoph Eschenbach takes the reins of the orchestra in the fall. The weekly game of "Who's Conducting This Week?" has given the NSO faithful the chance to make the acquaintance of a broad range of guest conductors, and Valčuha's debut with the orchestra is one of the high points. In one sense, this is a program for cognoscenti rather than those concert-goers who most enjoy hearing the same expected favorites over and over again. On the other hand, it is also excellent listening, plain and simple.

Jennifer Koh, heard in a Terrace Theater recital last month, was the soloist in Karol Szymanowski's first violin concerto, a work not heard from the NSO in almost twenty years. This exotic and sensual piece, conceived in one movement as a series of languorous and ecstatic vignettes, was inspired by the Polish composer's visits as a (homo)sexual tourist in North Africa. Koh's Stradivarius (the ex-Grumiaux ex-General DuPont, made in 1727) pined with sighing portamenti and shimmered in its flowing, pure line colored by blue notes, all perfectly in tune. In the fast sections of the concerto, however, the sound was a little too demure, not quite brazen enough to break through Szymanowski's amassed orchestra, much of it arrayed in full only for a few orgasmic swells, the rest only coloristic touches — harp swooshes, celesta tinkles, the dawn tweeting of woodwind birds, tinges of percussion. [Continue reading]
National Symphony Orchestra
With Juraj Valčuha (conductor) and Jennifer Koh (violin)
Kennedy Center Concert Hall


1 comment:

Greg Capaldini said...

Ms. Koh's performance certainly made new friends for me -- her AND the concerto. Isn't this what performances are all about?