Photo by Juergen Frank
Violinist Jennifer Koh is recognized for her intense, commanding performances, delivered with dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance. An adventurous musician, she collaborates with artists of multiple disciplines and curates projects that find connections between music of all eras from traditional to contemporary. She believes that all the arts and music of the past and present form a continuum and has premiered over 50 works written especially for her.
Ms. Koh has been heard with leading orchestras around the world including the Helsinki, New York, and Los Angeles Philharmonics; the Cleveland, Mariinsky, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Philharmonia (London) Orchestras; and the Atlanta, Baltimore, BBC, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, National, New World, NHK, RAI (Torino), and Singapore Symphonies. Conductors she has worked with include John Adams, Marin Alsop, James Conlon, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Carlos Kalmar, Lorin Maazel, Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Juraj Valčuha, Osmo Vänskä, Alexander Vedernikov, and Edo de Waart. A prolific recitalist, she frequently appears at major music centers and festivals, and played the role of Einstein in the revival of Philip Glass’s Einstein On the Beach from 2012–2014.
Musical America’s 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year, Ms. Koh’s foray into curating projects has led her to commission works by today’s foremost composers. Shared Madness comprises short works for solo violin that explore virtuosity for the violin in the 21st century by more than 30 of today’s most celebrated composers, all of whom gifted their music for the project. Shared Madness premiered over two recitals in May 2016 at National Sawdust as part of the New York Philharmonic’s Biennial. Ms. Koh’s Bridge to Beethoven recital series, performed with pianist Shai Wosner, explores the impact and significance Beethoven has had on a diverse group of composers and musicians. Pairing Beethoven’s ten sonatas for violin and piano with new works by composers Vijay Iyer, Andrew Norman, and Anthony Cheung over four programs, the project seeks to ignite creative conversations around Beethoven not only as a cornerstone of classical music but as a universal source of inspiration. Bach and Beyond is a three recital series that traces the history of the solo violin repertoire from Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas to composers ranging from Bartók, Berio, Carter, Salonen, and Ysaÿe with commissions and world premieres by composers John Harbison, Phil Kline, Missy Mazzoli, Kaija Saariaho, and video artist Tal Rosner. Two x Four explores mentorship and collaboration between teacher and student and features double violin concerti by Bach, Philip Glass, Anna Clyne, and David Ludwig — performed with Koh’s former teacher, violinist Jaime Laredo — and shows how performance traditions and composition practices are passed from generation to generation. Bach & Beyond Parts 1 and 2 and Two X Four have both been released on recordings by Cedille Records.
Her upcoming album, Tchaikovsky: Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra with the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, to be released on September 9, is Ms. Koh’s eleventh recording for the Cedille Records label. Ms. Koh first performed Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto conducted by Mr. Vedernikov in the final round of the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians in 1992. In addition to her Bach & Beyond and Two x Four albums, her discography on Cedille Records also includes Signs, Games + Messages, a recording of violin and piano works by Janáček, Bartók, and Kurtág with Mr. Wosner; Rhapsodic Musings: 21st Century Works for Solo Violin; the Grammy-nominated String Poetic, featuring the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s eponymous work, performed with pianist Reiko Uchida; Schumann’s complete violin sonatas, also with Ms. Uchida; Portraits with the Grant Park Orchestra under conductor Carlos Kalmar with concerti by Szymanowski, Martinů, and Bartók; Violin Fantasies: fantasies for violin and piano by Schubert, Schumann, Schoenberg, and saxophonist Ornette Coleman, again with Ms. Uchida; and Ms. Koh’s first Cedille album, from 2002, Solo Chaconnes, an earlier reading of Bach’s Second Partita coupled with chaconnes by Richard Barth and Max Reger.
Ms. Koh is the Artistic Director of arco collaborative, an artist-driven nonprofit that fosters a better understanding of our world through a musical dialogue inspired by ideas and the communities around us. The organization supports artistic collaborations and commissions, transforming the creative process by engaging with specific ideas and perspectives, investing in the future by cultivating artist-citizens in partnership with educational organizations.
Born in Chicago of Korean parents, Ms. Koh began playing the violin by chance, choosing the instrument in a Suzuki-method program only because spaces for cello and piano had been filled. She made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11, and went on to win the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1994, as well as the Concert Artists Guild Competition and an Avery Fisher Career Grant that same season. Ms. Koh has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Oberlin College and studied at the Curtis Institute, where she worked extensively with Jaime Laredo and Felix Galimir. For further information visit www.jenniferkoh.com.