Jennifer Koh

Ojai Music Festival opens with triumphant debuts — and a big scare
George Vargas
San Diego Union Tribune
June 9, 2017

Thursday night’s concert featured the world premiere of “Trouble,” Iyer’s audacious violin concerto. A thrilling showcase for Jennifer Koh, who has performed other pieces by Iyer in the past, “Trouble” takes its title from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It was then that U.S. Rep. John Lewis cited “necessary trouble” and “good trouble” as productive means for affecting positive change.

Iyer’s “Trouble” explored a broad range of emotions and musical approaches with consistent wit and imagination. Even when employing specific strategies — from recurring minimalistic patterns to skittering flourishes that surely would have made Edgard Varèse smile — Iyer put his own stamp on the music.

In Koh, who combines dazzling virtuosity and deep emotional conviction, he had an exceptional solo voice. (She will be featured in August during the 2017 edition of the La Jolla Music Society’s annual SummerFest.)

In Schick, he had a conductor who has long embraced and performed new music with boundless vigor and keen attention to detail and nuance. With further exposure, “Trouble” has the potential to become a showcase for violinists who share Koh’s ability, stamina and appetite for aural adventure.

"Community and Empathy at the 2017 Ojai Music Festival"

Alexander K. Rothe
Second Inversion
June 14, 2017

A highlight of the festival’s first evening was the spectacular world premiere of Iyer’s violin concerto for Jennifer Koh. Koh, who was interviewed later during the festival, is a warm, intelligent person, and this was reflected in her performance of Iyer’s violin concerto. The concerto—a genre that traditionally involves a hierarchical relationship between the hero-soloist and the orchestra—was instead reconceived here as a dialogue between equals. The soloist was depicted as a vulnerable figure responding to the musical material of the orchestra. For example, at one point during the concerto, the violinist sustains a single pitch while the orchestra plays the melody. When Koh performed this section, she drew her bow close to the bridge, resulting in a brittle, fragile sound—like a voice on the verge of breaking.

"Review: Vijay Iyer jazzes up the Ojai Music Festival"
Mark Swed
The Los Angeles Times
June 9, 2017

The evening began with the American premiere of “Emergence,” in which Iyer’s jazz trio interacts with a chamber ensemble. The world premiere of what you might say is Iyer’s classical violin concerto, “Trouble,” with Jennifer Koh as the dazzling soloist, followed...The show belongs to Koh, whether playing soulful melody, making the raspy scraping sound of strings into poetry, or just tossing off plain, fabulous old-fashioned virtuosity.

Emerging from Trouble at Ojai Music Festival
Aaron Wolff
I Care If You Listen
June 22, 2017

“In the finale, “Assembly,” Koh broke away in a scalar fit of desperation, signaling an unsupported dream, a faint glimmer of hope, or a glimpse at freedom–she seemed rise out of sea of orchestral cacophony. She thoroughly commanded the piece, fully pushing the possibilities of her instrument, and fully accepting the vulnerability that she had to communicate in the rare role of an antiheroic soloist.”