On September 15th, 2018, at the historic Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Avenue in downtown Evanston, Music Institute of Chicago opened its 2018–19 Faculty and Guest Artist Series with acclaimed alumna violinist Jennifer Koh in a concert comprised of 2 Bach pieces bookending a work by John Harbison composed especially for Koh.
The selections came from 2 recent Koh initiatives, Shared Madness, a project comprising short works for solo violin that explore virtuosity in the 21st century, written by more than 30 of today’s most celebrated composers, and Bach and Beyond, a recital series that traces the history of the solo violin repertoire from Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas to 20th and 21st century composers.
The performance showcased the powerful technique, technical prowess, and emotional delivery of this exceptional violinist. Once the applause after the first piece died down, Koh remarked, “The Music Institute of Chicago gave me the opportunity to become the musician I am now”.
– J.S. Bach Sonata #1 in G minor, BWV 1001, @1720
– John Harbison For Violin Alone, 2014
– J.S. Bach Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004, 1717-1720
Bach’s 6 sonatas and partitas for solo violin, BWV 1001-1006, are now considered “an essential part of the violin repertoire”. The 3 sonatas have 4 movements each, the partitas are composed in dance form movements. The 2 pieces from this compositional cycle selected for the program at Nichols are intensely intimate, and were played with a rawness of intonation and depth of feeling that dramatically heightened the direct and simple emphasis of the distinct melodic lines. Koh is an inspired performer, clearly concentrating fiercely, displaying astonishing strength coupled with delicacy. In the “Chaconne”, the famous final movement of the Partita, her bow flew over the violin with a phrasing and nuance that justified Yehudi Menuhin’s description of this segment as “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”.
John Harbison’s piece for Koh, For Violin Alone, is a 7-movement complete partita, perfectly placed in-between the Bach works. Conceived after Bach, yet modern in feel, it contains the same essentially raw power. The stunning work provides a wide range of unified contrasts, including the “bluegrass feel” of the opening “Ground”, the breathless “Air”, the confident “March” and the 2 “Dances”, described by Koh as “inspired by an array of American influences like folk and blues”.
Faculty & Guest Artist Series (Continuing) 2018-2019 Season:
Chicago Duo Piano Festival: Susan and Sarah Wang Piano Duo
Friday, October 26 at 7:30 pm
“Spooktacular” Concert and Haunted Open House
Sunday, October 28 at 3 pm
Saturday, November 10 at 7:30 pm
Family Event: Duke It Out! ($5 family priced tickets)
Saturday, December 8 at 2 pm
Inna Faliks: “Polonaise-Fantasie, the Story of a Pianist”
Sunday, February 10 at 3 pm
Paul Barnes, pianist and chanter
“Love and Death and Resurrection in the Musical Vision of Philip Glass, Franz Liszt, and Ancient Chant”
Sunday, March 10 at 3 pm
Time for Three
Sunday, April 7 at 3 pm
Lionel Hampton Birthday Celebration
featuring Joe Locke, Thaddeus Tukes, and Tammy McCann
Saturday, April 20 at 7:30 pm
Academy Orchestra with the Bach Week Festival
featuring Sergei Babayan, piano
Sunday, April 28 at 3 pm
All concerts take place at the historic Nichols Concert Hall
1490 Chicago Avenue, Evanston
Tickets, except where noted, are $50 for VIP seating, $40 for adults, $25 for seniors and $15 for students, available online or 847.448.8328.
Photos by Juergen Frank