jennifer koh goes to ’11’

Jennifer Koh – Photo © Janette Beckman

It’s been amazing, watching violinist Jennifer Koh play the Brahms Violin Concerto with us this weekend.  During the rehearsals, she was controlled, a bit reticent, and was clearly getting used to conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni’s approach to the score and the orchestra.

Then came the concerts.

A force of nature in an elegant blue gown came out on stage and tore up the Brahms concerto, taking her sound and phrasing to the breaking point.  Truly, her violin goes to 11!  She has such incredible concentration amidst all of this energy, and she chose the Kreisler cadenza rather than the more usually played one by Joachim, and it was amazing to watch her vision of the piece emerge over the run. The second movement was mesmerizing, and I don’t think that I’ve ever heard so little sound coming from the audience seats during this movement – with little of the coughing and fidgeting that often accompany a long slow movement.

We’ve been lucky to have two such wonderful violin soloists so far this year, with Baiba Skride giving a sober, nuanced performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto, and now Jennifer Koh with the Brahms.  And we still have Itzhak Perlman playing Bach, OSO concertmaster Jun Iwasaki making his OSO solo debut with the Korngold concerto, and Joshua Bell performing Mendelssohn.  It’s an embarassment of riches!

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