Review: Bach at Lennoxlove, Lennoxlove House, Haddington

BACH AT LENNOXLOVELennoxlove House, Haddington *****

Moving continuously on from Bach’s Partita No 3 into the second solo violin sonata by Ysaÿe made for a shock to the system – not to mention 40 minutes of non-stop music – in Jennifer Koh’s recital at Lennoxlove House on Tuesday evening.

Yet Bach and Beyond, a personal project of Koh’s in which she juxtaposes Bach’s solo violin music with that of more recent composers, is a speciality of this formidable musician which results in a fascinating musical journey. Ysaÿe’s 1923 Sonata, one of six written for different violinists of the time, uses snippets of the more famous Bach piece to powerful effect, especially with Koh in assertive mode for the concert’s first half.

In the clear acoustic of Lennoxlove’s Great Hall, Koh’s thoughtfully chosen repertoire moved easily from light to dark by way of virtuosic demands from Finnish composers Kaija Saariaho and Esa Pekka Salonen and the astonishing US based Elliot Carter, 102 years old and still composing.

But for all their more modern writing, it is somehow still Bach who speaks most directly to contemporary audiences in a clear musical language which has lasted and proved itself across the centuries. The post interval Partita No 2 heard Koh in more warm and mellow tones denied by the 20th and 21st century pieces. It was beautifully lyrical, sensitively rhythmical and a total tour de force in the extended chaconne to finish.