Jennifer Koh (violin) , USA
Jennifer Koh is widely recognised for her ability to fuse intensity of temperament with a classical poise and elegance. The New York Times described her as a "fearless soloist". As a virtuoso whose natural flair is combined with a probing intellect, Koh is committed to exploring connections between the pieces she plays, searching for similarities between different composers, as well as within the works of a single composer. Accordingly, her programmes often present rare and revealing juxtapositions, offering works by composers as diverse as Mozart and Ornette Coleman, Schubert and Wuorinen, often inspired by her passion for contemporary music.
Since coming to international attention in 1994 as winner of the top prize at the Tchaikovsky Competition, Koh has gone on to perform as guest soloist with many of the world's leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Moscow Radio Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. An active chamber musician and recitalist, she performs with such distinguished artists as Jaime Laredo and Leon Fleisher at major music centres and festivals, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Mostly Mozart, Marlboro, Wolf Trap, Ravinia and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. She has close collaborations with such eminent conductors as John Adams, Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Osmo Vanska.
Jennifer Koh revels in the unexpected and enjoys a portfolio of work that includes engagements as diverse as Vivaldi's Four Seasons with the Detroit Symphony and Kaija Saariaho's "Graal théâtre" with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She is one of today's most highly regarded interpreters of and advocates for contemporary music. Works written for her include Jennifer Higdon's concerto "The Singing Rooms", premiered with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach.
Koh's 2009/10 season began with her BBC Proms debut, the UK premiere of Augusta Read Thomas' Third Violin Concerto, "Juggler in Paradise", with Jiri Belohlavek and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Engagements later in 2009/10 included returns to the New Jersey Symphony, National Symphony and New World Symphony and performances of Saariaho's Graal Théâtre at the Miller Theatre, New York. She gave the world premiere of a Klas Torstensson concerto with the Nieuw Ensemble, Amsterdam and also made her debut with the Verdi Orchestra, Milan performing the Beethoven concerto with Xian Zhang. Recitals included performances in Philadelphia; at the Kennedy Center, Washington; Miller Theatre, New York; and Herbst Theatre, San Francisco.
In 2010/11 Koh's repertoire includes Adams, Barber, Dvorak, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Saariaho and the US premiere of Augusta Read Thomas' "Juggler in Paradise" with the National Symphony Orchestra. New additions to her repertoire during this season include the world premiere of Mark Grey's "Mugunghwa" with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Walt Disney Hall; the Unsuk Chin concerto, which she will perform with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at London's Barbican Centre; Steve Mackey's Four Iconoclast Interludes; and the world premiere of a Missy Mazzoli concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and John Adams. Her European engagements include debuts with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Residentie Orkest.
Koh has featured prominently in the contemporary music programming at Columbia University's prestigious Miller Theatre in New York City in recent years, performing a "Composer Portrait" devoted to Peter Lieberson as well as the world premieres of concertos by Laura Schwendinger and Charles Wuorinen. Other pivotal performances of contemporary repertoire include performances of the Ligeti Violin Concerto (with a cadenza written expressly for her by John Zorn) with the Ensemble Contrechamps in Geneva and at the Holland Festival at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; Tan Dun's "Water Passion", conducted by the composer at New York's South Street Seaport as part of the River to River Festival; and Lou Harrison's "Concerto in slendro", with John Adams.
This passion for a broad spectrum of repertoire is reflected in Koh's discography. Her most recent recording, "Rhapsodic Musings" features contemporary repertoire for solo violin by Elliott Carter, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Augusta Read Thomas and John Zorn. Earlier recordings include the Grammy nominated "String Poetic", which takes its name from the Jennifer Higdon work written for Koh, complete Schumann violin sonatas, the Szymanowski and Martinu violin concertos, the Menotti Violin Concerto (with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Richard Hickox), and a disc called "Violin Fantasies", which pairs works by Schubert and Schumann with Schoenberg and Ornette Coleman.
Born in Chicago of Korean parents, Koh lives in New York City. She has a bachelor's degree in English literature from Oberlin College and maintains a lively interest in writing and literature. She subsequently studied at the Curtis Institute, working extensively with Jaime Laredo and Felix Galimir. A committed educator, Jennifer Koh has won high praise for her performances in classrooms around the country under her innovative Music Messenger outreach programme.
Jennifer Koh is grateful to her private sponsor for the generous loan of the 1727 Ex Grumiaux Ex General DuPont Stradivari she uses in performance.