Music for unaccompanied solo instruments can be extremely impassioned and intimate. The burden lies on the lone soloist to interpret the music and express the aesthetic value that the composer meant. But for violinist Jennifer Koh and cellist Joshua Roman, who performed last Sunday afternoon at Tiedtke Hall in Rollins College, there seemed to be no burden at all.
The recital was probably the most intimate and virtuosic of this year’s Bach Festival Society of Winter Park events. As the last patrons rushed in to find their seats, Koh promptly took the stage and intoned the opening lines of the incredibly diverse and complex Violin Sonata No. 1 in g minor. The piece explores a wide range of textures and tempi. From the very beginning, the great acoustics of the Tiedtke Hall seemed to amplify Koh’s violin, as her double-stops resonated loud and clear and filled the concert hall. In the second movement, Koh worked her way through the several iterations of this fugue – a complex piece in which voices overlap and create a contrapuntal constitution. Her phrasing was exquisite, grouping and emphasizing every run of notes to very emotional effects. The piece ends with a striking Presto, probably one of the fastest pieces that Bach ever wrote.
Koh finished her performance with the hefty Violin Partita No. 2 in d minor. The piece is made up of rustic dances of the era and differs considerably from Bach’s music for the Church, some of which was recently performed to open the current Bach festival. The last two movements, ‘Giga’ and ‘Ciaccona’ were the most impressive; one could see and hear the feeling emanating from the violinist, as she swung her body along with the fast lines hammered out by her quick fingering, especially during the variations over the harmonic ground of the chaconne.
A short intermission prepared a full house at Tiedtke Hall for the equally stunning Joshua Roman. Having first picked up the cello at the tender age of three, Roman plays the music of Bach like he could do it in his sleep. His flawless performance of the Cello Suite No. 2 in d minor was a delight to watch and listen to. Similar in structure to the Violin Partita, the two cello pieces are comprised of secular dances that vary in feeling and mood. What stunned the audience the most was Roman’s precision on the fingerboard. His deft finger placement, combined with his swift bow strokes, were almost invisible. Effortlessly, Roman flew through the Cello Suite No. 4 in E-flat major, the only major-key piece of the afternoon’s performance, occasionally glancing at his awe-struck audience with a confident grin that proved that he was well in his element.
A real treat for the eyes and ears, this performance was intimate and masterful. According to the program notes, not only are Koh and Roman first-rate performers, but they dedicate much of their time to educating others and making music accessible to them. This endeavor is essential of artists of this caliber, in order to promote appreciation and to inspire future performers. Marking yet another strong point in the history of the Bach Society of Winter Park, these great performances will resume next weekend at the Knowles Memorial Chapel, including a reading of the amazing St. Matthew Passion.
To visit the website of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park and learn about upcoming performances, click here.
To read a review of the first performance of the current Bach Festival, click here.