koh 2 koh – part I

when that bundle of energetic joy (otherwise known as gregory vajda) is on the podium, i have found it’s impossible not to smile… especially when he’s introducing one of his very own babies.  the dreamy duevoe was composed by maestro gregory and proved to be chock-full of ambient gypsy sounds, fitting perfectly into last night’s program.  as soon as the saxophone helped kick off the piece (something a classical reviewer says approximately once in a coon’s age), i began to imagine ornette coleman stirring a gently simmering pot of hungarian goulash.  unbeknownst to the crowd, this performance also served as the official-very-early-kick-off of pica’s tba festival: go ahead, ask anyone in attendance about the tuxedo-clad gentleman perched in the choir loft violently swinging a paddle ball in front of a microphone.  i just can’t make this shit up [oops, sorry mary].

the fragrance of paprika still hung in the air as jennifer koh, elegantly dressed in a spicy pink gown + black bow, confidently strode onto the schnitzer stage accompanied by her 284-year-old fiddle.  with a raise of the baton, ms. koh and the band simultaneously dove into the lush violin concerto of american samuel barber.  now unless a Beethoven symphony is on the program, pretty much every piece of music that the symphony performs is new to me, and the beaver will now be bold and declare its blossoming love for mr. barber, and this concerto in particular.  not long into the music, its swelling strings, soul-wringing contemplation, and bittersweet playfulness tug at the heart.  not to mention two beautifully unassuming little melodies that have now been officially diagnosed as a pair of earworms burrowing in and out of my brain’s convoluted folds.  ms. koh appeared both enraptured and anguished throughout, swaying convulsively to the gorgeous score.  perhaps she was mentally preparing herself for the finale?  sounding like demonic dance music for laurey’s dream sequence in oklahoma, the final four-minute movement is a non-stop virtuosic fireball, evoking nightmarish hoedowns and big budget action movies.  [go jenny, go!]  frankly, i’m not sure how she found the courage and energy to return after intermission.

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