Five AMERICAN Stars!! Awesome, intriguing, daring Grammy-nominated violin/piano performances of modern American classical music which creates soundscapes and moods, reflecting sensibilities of Americana. Award-winning virtuoso violinist Jennifer Koh, whose two previous CDs were marvelous, changes direction for these four performances which concentrate on 20th Century American composers, including 2 world premiers: bracing music by tonality-master Lou Harrison and a stirring "String Poetic" by Jennifer Higdon, who wrote it specifically for Ms Koh. And there is challenging, enjoyable music composed by Carl Ruggles, the earliest composer of the group, and Pulitzer Prize-winner John Adams. This CD once again brings to the fore the formidable piano virtuoso Reiko Uchida as a compelling musical duo partner for Ms Koh, forming what I have previously called "the Dynamic Duo".
Ms Higdon's marvelous five-movement "String Poetic", composed in 2006, covers a lot of engaging musical ground in many varied and fascinating forms, sometimes within each movement. The 'best of the best' includes the achingly beautiful "Nocture" and the technically dazzling "Maze Mechanical" with each player's lines diverging and converging. "Jagged Climb" and "Climb Jagged" are very interesting bookends with Ms Koh showing that Ms Higdon really understands the capabilities of her rippling bow work. Carl Ruggles' "Mood", dating back to 1918, is a single movement piece that came to light and form after the composer's passing and is an expressive tone poem in hands of Koh and Uchida, full of urgent beauty and extreme angst. John Adams' "Road Movies", composed in 1995, begins with a "Relaxed Groove" that is restlessly engaging, but the blazing "40% Swing" takes the cake in this piece. The multi-talented Lou Harrison's five movement "Grand Duo", composed in 1988, runs the gamut of emotions and technical musicality where Ms Koh achieves an almost harmonica-like tone in the "Prelude" movement and her masterful bow work on the wild dance of the "Stampede" movement is irresistable, adding to the stark landscape of this wonderful piece. With the "String Poetic" CD, the remarkable Jennifer Koh achieves another high water mark in her career and demonstrates musical ESP with Reiko Uchida that must not be missed by the adventurous classical fan who loves discovering music by prestigious modern-day genius composers. Wonderfully recorded and Highly Recommended!! Five INTRIGUING Stars. (Audio CD, 73:45)