Renowned Violist Jennifer Koh To Host An Evening Of Chamber Music At The Breakers

Since kicking off its 2017-2018 Great Performers Series, the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach has featured such stellar talent like the Escher String Quartet, the Philadelphia Orchestra Brass Quintet, and the Ehnes Quartet.

Tonight, legendary violinist Jennifer Koh heads to The Breakers in Palm Beach to perform classic and contemporary oeuvres by composers Maurice Ravel, Luciano BerioMissy Mazzoli, and others.

Ahead of her performance, we sat down with the 41-year-old, American-Korean violinist to talk about her pre-show rituals, sharing the stage with pianist Reiko Uchida, and her infatuation with Johann Sebastian Bach.

jennifer_koh1Photo Credit: Juergen Frank

Take a second to brag about Reiko. What is it about this talented pianist you enjoy most?

I have played with Reiko for many years and it is a joy to spend time with her musically and personally. She’s an incredibly sensitive musician and a wonderful collaborator.

What was the most challenging work of music you ever performed or recorded?

Performing all six sonatas and partitas by Bach for solo violin in a marathon concert was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. The six works make up nearly two-and-half hours of music, not including intermission, and requires fierce concentration and stamina.

What are your pre-show rituals?

I drink a lot of water.

Of all your performances, which one stands out most?

“Einstein On the Beach” was unique because I’ve never spent an hour in makeup before. Turning an Asian-American woman into an old Jewish physicist with a mustache took a lot of time.

 If you could collaborate with any living musician, who would it be?

Luckily I don’t have to choose just one. I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with many living musicians I love and respect. In Palm Beach, I’ll be playing a work called “Dissolve, O my Heart” written for me by my friend and colleague, Missy Mazzoli. She based her piece on the Bach Chaconne which is also on the program. It’s a very beautiful and intimate piece that takes you on a fantastical journey.

How or where do you go for inspiration? 

I love art. I go to many concerts, art galleries, and all the performing arts. I also love reading.

When you’re not performing, where could we find you?

If I’m touring, you can usually find me swimming laps in the hotel pool or visiting a local art museum. I am a culture vulture and can’t get enough art, theater, and music. At home in New York, I meet with my fellow artists and we talk about things we care about—everything from dating and music to the world around us.

What’s your greatest indulgence?

Chocolate everything.

What trait is quintessentially you? 

Assembling ideas and bringing together artists. I enjoy building and expanding communities of listeners and artists. My friends have called me an energizer bunny. As a performer, curator, speaker, and the artistic director of my nonprofit collaborative, arco collaborative, I have to have my mind and hands in ten places at once.

What’s something people don’t know about you, but should?

I am a first-generation Korean-American, born of refugee parents who could stay in the United States because of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. Their struggles and accomplishments are an inspiration to me.

What’s your greatest non-musical talent?

My friends tell me I’m a good cook. I can make a mean vegetarian pesto pasta.

Which song do you play when you’re happy or in a blue mood? 

Anything Bach. He delves into every emotion.

What are three words that sum you up? 

Inquisitive, conscientious, and compassionate.

As part of your “Music Messenger” program, you advocate for musical education and perform for students. What’s your advice for the next generation of talent?

Work hard and remember every day your mission in life is to be an artist. Build and support your fellow artists, be curious, and connect with the community you live in.

Tickets cost $195 and include a pre-concert cocktail reception. For tickets or more information, please call 561-379-6773 or visit