Chicago-based violinist Jennifer Koh is by no means the first musician to be fascinated by the influence of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music on later composers, but 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.
The Back & Beyond project started in 2011 with her recording for the Chicago label Cedille of the Partitas Nos 3 and 2 book-ending a trio of works: Eugene Ysaye’s Sonata No 3 – inspired by both the sprightly opening of the third partita and the darker 13th-century Dies Irae – Kaija Saariaho’s Nocturne and Missy Mazzoli’s Dissolve, O My Heart. This was followed in 2014 by a double-disc set of Bach’s First Sonata and Partita coupled with Bartók’s 1944 Sonata for Solo Violin and Saariaho’s four-part Frises.
The new release, also a double disc, completes the cycle with the Second and Third Sonatas complemented by Luciano Berio’s Sequenza VIII for solo violin and US composer John Harbison’s For Violin Alone, an attractive and virtuosic tonal partita in seven parts written for Koh in 2015 and given its world premiere here.
Koh’s superb talents as a soloist are only matched by her work in expanding the solo violin repertoire by commissioning new works – more than 100 to date, including an online series, Alone Together, promoting music by contemporary composers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Her album of works by Finnish composer Saariaho was a runner up in the 2019 Limelight Recording of the Year.
Title: Bach & Beyond Part 3
Music by: Bach, Berio and Harbison
Performer: Jennifer Koh v
Label: Cedille CDR90000199