Jennifer KohViolin
Vijay IyerPiano
Tyshawn SoreyPercussion

Jennifer Koh, Vijay Iyer & Tyshawn Sorey

Limitless

Friday, January 24, 2020 | 7:30pm

Herbst TheatreVenue Information
San Francisco

$60/$50/$45

Program

Limitless

BACH: Partita No. 1 in B minor
ANDREW NORMAN: Cecilia; Sabina
TYSHAWN SOREY: In Memoriam Muhal Richard Abrams
Improvisations by Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey
VIJAY IYER: The Diamond (22')

Performance Sponsors

Frank S. Bayley, Individual Sponsor

About This Performance

SF Performances’ favorites Jennifer Koh and Vijay Iyer team up with debut percussionist Tyshawn Sorey. This dynamic trio of creator/performers examines limitless relationships between composer and performer including two new works and improvisations.

Performer Biographies

Recognized for intense, commanding performances, delivered with dazzling virtuosity and technical assurance, violinist Jennifer Koh is a forward-thinking artist dedicated to exploring a broad and eclectic repertoire, while promoting diversity and inclusivity in classical music. She has expanded the contemporary violin repertoire through a wide range of commissioning projects, and has premiered more than 70 works written especially for her. Her quest for the new and unusual, sense of endless curiosity, and ability to lead and inspire a host of multidisciplinary collaborators, truly set her apart.

During the 2018–19 season, Ms. Koh continues critically acclaimed series from past seasons, including The New American Concerto, Limitless, Bach and Beyond, Shared Madness, and Bridge to Beethoven. The New American Concerto is an ongoing, multi-season commissioning project that explores the form of the violin concerto and its potential for artistic engagement with contemporary societal concerns and issues through commissions from a diverse collective of composers. This season, as part of the project, Ms. Koh performs Vijay Iyer’s violin concerto Trouble with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and Vermont Symphony Orchestra. The New American Concerto launched with Ms. Koh’s world premiere performance of Trouble at the 2017 Ojai Music Festival and has since continued with a new concerto by Chris Cerrone titled Breaks and Breaks, which she premiered with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in May 2018. Ms. Koh performs music from Limitless, a commissioning project that engages leading composer-performers to write duo compositions that explore the artistic relationship between composer and performer. She and Vijay Iyer perform his piece Diamond for violin and piano at Cornell University, while Ms. Koh also solos in Anna Clyne’s concerto Rest These Hands—a work composed for Ms. Koh—with the Cornell Chamber Orchestra. Later in the season, Ms. Koh performs duos with Mr. Iyer and composer-percussionist Tyshawn Sorey in a Limitless program that also features solo works and an improvised trio performed by the artists, presented by Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Limitless launched in March 2018 over two nights at National Sawdust.

Ms. Koh also performs Bach and Beyond, a recital series that traces the history of the solo violin repertoire from Bach’s Six Sonatas and Partitas to 20th- and 21st-century composers, at the Music Institute of Chicago; and Shared Madness, comprising short works for solo violin that explore virtuosity in the 21st century, written for the project by more than 30 of today’s most celebrated composers, as part of the Music on Main Festival in Vancouver. In addition to experiencing Shared Madness in the concert hall, listeners are also able to hear recordings of the premiere performances and interviews between Ms. Koh and the composers via the Shared Madness radio show, which originally aired on WQXR’s New Sounds (formerly Q2) during the summer of 2017 and remains available on demand. Ms. Koh and her frequent recital partner Shai Wosner continue Bridge to Beethoven, which pairs Beethoven’s violin sonatas with new and recent works inspired by them to explore the composer’s impact and significance on a diverse group of musicians, with performances in Baltimore, among other cities. She performs with the Variation String Trio—of which she is a founding member—in Naples and Palm Beach, Florida, as well as at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall as a quintet with pianist Nicolas Hodges and cellist Anssi Karttunen.

Other projects on the horizon include The 38th Parallel: A Contemporary Pansori, which explores the impact of displacement and immigration, and individual and familial transformation through music, visual art, and movement. Conceived by Ms. Koh and composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière, The 38th Parallel connects the transformation of three generations of human lives and encapsulates the experience of cultural uprooting and assimilation. Ms. Koh performs a suite from The 38th Parallel with baritone Davóne Tines and flutist Camilla Hoitenga this season in New York at the Advent Lutheran Church as part of the Music Mondays Concert Series.

Ms. Koh is active not only in the concert hall, but also as a lecturer, teacher, and recording artist. She is in residence in October at Cornell and Tulane Universities, during which she will perform, give master classes, and speak on topics from diversity to contemporary composition. Also this season, Cedille Records releases Ms. Koh’s recording of works by Kaija Saariaho, whose music she has long championed and with whom she has closely collaborated. Scheduled for release in November 2018, the album is Ms. Koh’s twelfth release on the Chicago-based label and includes the chamber version of the violin concerto Graal Théâtre with the Curtis Chamber Orchestra; Cloud Trio with violist Hsin-Yun Huang and cellist Wilhelmina Smith; Tocar with pianist Nicolas Hodges; Aure with cellist Anssi Karttunen, with whom she premiered the violin and cello version in 2015; and Light and Matter with both Mr. Hodges and Mr. Karttunen, with whom she performed the French premiere in 2017. The composer’s music also appears on Ms. Koh’s two Bach and Beyond albums—Nocturne on Part 1, Frises on Part 2. In 2016, Ms. Koh gave the world premiere of Sense for solo violin, which was commissioned for her Shared Madness project.

This season, Ms. Koh performs a broad range of concertos that reflects the breadth of her musical interests, from traditional repertoire such as Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Rhode Island Philharmonic); to twentieth-century classics like Bernstein’s Serenade (Philadelphia Orchestra, as part of the All Bernstein: Celebrating 100 Years conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and Delaware Symphony), Ligeti’s Violin Concerto (Camerata Salzburg and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra), and Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto (Jacksonville Symphony); to music of this millennium, such as Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto (Phoenix and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestras).

Ms. Koh has been heard with leading orchestras around the world including the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics; the Cleveland, Mariinsky Theatre, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and Philharmonia (London) Orchestras; the Atlanta, Baltimore, BBC, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Milwaukee, Montreal, Nashville, National, New Jersey, New World, NHK (Tokyo), Pittsburgh, RAI National (Torino), St. Louis, Seattle, and Singapore Symphony Orchestras; and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, among other ensembles. She has worked with such conductors as John Adams, Marin Alsop, James Conlon, Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Giancarlo Guerrero, Manfred Honeck, Louis Langree, Carlos Kalmar, Lorin Maazel, Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Juraj Valčuha, Osmo Vänskä, Alexander Vedernikov, and Edo de Waart. She played the role of Einstein in the revival of Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach from 2012 to 2014, and a particular highlight of her career was performing for former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and former First Lady of South Korea Kim Yoon-ok in 2011.

Ms. Koh brings the same sense of adventure and brilliant musicianship to her recordings as she does to her live performances. She has recorded twelve albums, including her fall 2018 Saariaho release, with Chicago-based Cedille Records. Her discography on Cedille Records also includes Tchaikovsky: Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra with the Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, Bach & Beyond Parts 1 and 2; Two x Four in collaboration with her former teacher, violinist Jaime Laredo, and featuring double violin concerti by Bach, Philip Glass, and new commissions from Anna Clyne and David Ludwig; Signs, Games + Messages, a recording of violin and piano works by Janáček, Bartók, and Kurtág with Mr. Wosner; Rhapsodic Musings: 21st Century Works for Solo Violin; the Grammy-nominated String Poetic, featuring the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s eponymous work, performed with pianist Reiko Uchida; Schumann’s complete violin sonatas, also with Ms. Uchida; Portraits with the Grant Park Orchestra under conductor Carlos Kalmar with concerti by Szymanowski, Martinů, and Bartók; Violin Fantasies: Fantasies for Violin and Piano by Schubert, Schumann, Schoenberg, and saxophonist Ornette Coleman, again with Ms. Uchida; and Ms. Koh’s first Cedille album, from 2002, Solo Chaconnes, an earlier reading of Bach’s Second Partita coupled with chaconnes by Richard Barth and Max Reger. Ms. Koh is also the featured soloist on a recording of Ms. Higdon’s The Singing Rooms with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra led by Robert Spano for Telarc.

Ms. Koh is the Artistic Director of arco collaborative, an artist-driven nonprofit that fosters a better understanding of our world through a musical dialogue inspired by ideas and the communities around us. The organization supports artistic collaborations and commissions, transforming the creative process by engaging with specific ideas and perspectives, investing in the future by cultivating artist-citizens in partnership with educational organizations. A committed educator, she has won high praise for her performances in classrooms around the country under her innovative “Music Messenger” outreach program. Ms. Koh is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Foundation for the Advancement for the Arts, a scholarship program for high school students in the arts.

Born in Chicago of Korean parents, Ms. Koh began playing the violin by chance, choosing the instrument in a Suzuki-method program only because spaces for cello and piano had been filled. She made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11. She has been honored as Musical America’s 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year, top prize winner at Moscow’s International Tchaikovsky Competition, winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition, and a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Oberlin College and studied at the Curtis Institute, where she worked extensively with Jaime Laredo and Felix Galimir. For further information, visit jenniferkoh.com.

Composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) has carved out a unique path as an influential, prolific, shape-shifting presence in modern music. He was described by Pitchfork as “one of the best in the world at what he does,” by the Los Angeles Weekly as “a boundless and deeply important young star,” by the New York Times as a “social conscience, multimedia collaborator, system builder, rhapsodist, historical thinker and multicultural gateway,” and by Minnesota Public Radio as “an American treasure.” A musical innovator, an active collaborator, and a member of multiple artistic communities, Iyer continues to reimagine the role of the musician in the 21st century.

Iyer has been voted DownBeat Magazine’s Artist of the Year four times—in 2018, 2016, 2015 and 2012—and Artist of the Year in Jazz Times’ Critics’ and Readers’ Polls for 2017. Iyer was named a 2017 United States Artists Fellow, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. He holds a lifetime appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts at Harvard University, with a joint affiliation with the Department of Music and the Department of African and African American Studies.

The New York Times observed, “There’s probably no frame wide enough to encompass the creative output of the pianist Vijay Iyer.” Iyer has released twenty-three albums covering remarkably diverse terrain, most recently for the ECM label. 2019 brings the release of The Transitory Poems, a live two-piano improvisation with Iyer’s longtime colleague and label-mate, Craig Taborn. Prior to that, Iyer’s sextet album Far From Over (2017) was ranked #1 in US National Public Radio's annual Jazz Critics’ Poll, surveying 157 critics. It was named among the best jazz albums of the year in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Slate, and The New York Times, and the only “jazz release” in Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 best records of 2017. Iyer’s Sextet was voted 2018 Jazz Group of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association.

Iyer’s previous ECM releases include A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (2016), a collaboration with Iyer’s “hero, friend and teacher,” Wadada Leo Smith, which the Los Angeles Times calls “haunting, meditative and transportive”; Break Stuff (2015), with a coveted five-star rating in DownBeat Magazine, featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio, hailed by PopMatters as “the best band in jazz”; Mutations (2014), featuring Iyer’s music for piano, string quartet and electronics, which “extends and deepens his range…showing a delicate, shimmering, translucent side of his playing” (Chicago Tribune); and Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (2014), “his most challenging and impressive work, the scintillating score to a compelling film by Prashant Bhargava” (DownBeat), performed by International Contemporary Ensemble and released on DVD and BluRay.

Iyer’s trio (Iyer, piano; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Stephan Crump, bass) made its name with three tremendously acclaimed and influential albums: Break Stuff (2015), Accelerando (2012) and Historicity (2009). Accelerando was voted #1 Jazz Album of the Year for 2012 in three separate critics polls surveying hundreds of critics worldwide, hosted by DownBeat, Jazz Times, and Rhapsody, respectively, and also was chosen as jazz album of the year by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, PopMatters, and Amazon.com. The Vijay Iyer Trio was named 2015 Jazz Group of the year in the DownBeat International Critics Poll, with Iyer having earlier received an unprecedented “quintuple crown” in the 2012 Downbeat Poll (winning Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year, and Rising Star Composer categories), as well as a “quadruple crown” in the JazzTimes extended critics poll (winning Artist of the Year, Acoustic/Mainstream Group of the Year, Pianist of the Year, and Album of the Year). Iyer received the 2012 and 2013 Pianist of the Year Awards and the 2010 Musician of the Year Award from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international pianist. Historicity was a 2010 Grammy Nominee for Best Instrumental Jazz Album, and was named #1 Jazz Album of 2009 in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Metro Times, National Public Radio, PopMatters.com, the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll, and the Downbeat International Critics Poll, and the trio won the 2010 ECHO Award for best international ensemble.

Iyer’s 2013 collaboration with poet Mike Ladd, Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project, based on the dreams of veterans of color from America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was hailed as #1 Jazz Album of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and described in JazzTimes as “impassioned, haunting, [and] affecting.” Along with their previous projects In What Language? (2004) and Still Life with Commentator (2007), Holding It Down rounded out a trilogy of politically searing albums about post-9/11 American life. These projects were hailed as “unfailingly imaginative and significant” (JazzTimes) and praised for their “powerful narrative invention and ravishing trance-jazz…an eloquent tribute to the stubborn, regenerative powers of the human spirit” (Rolling Stone).

Iyer's musical accomplishments extend well beyond his recordings. His recent composer commissions include Crisis Modes (2019) for the LA Philharmonic’s Green Umbrellas Series; Torque (2018) written for So Percussion; Asunder (2017) written for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Trouble (2017) for Violin and Orchestra, written for Jennifer Koh and premiered at Ojai and Tanglewood Music Festivals; City of Sand (2017) for A Far Cry plus members of Silk Road Ensemble; Run, a solo cello overture to Bach’s Suite in C Major, written for Matt Haimovitz and recorded on his Overtures to Bach (2016); Bridgetower Fantasy (2015) for violin and piano, a companion piece to Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, written for Ms. Koh and Shai Wosner; Playlist for an Extreme Occasion (2012) written for Silk Road Ensemble (and released on their 2013 album A Playlist without Borders); Dig The Say, written for Brooklyn Rider and released on their 2014 album Almanac; Mozart Effects (2011) and Time, Place, Action (2014) for Brentano String Quartet; Bruits (2014) for Imani Winds and pianist Cory Smythe; Rimpa Transcriptions (2012) written for Bang on a Can All-Stars; UnEasy (2011) commissioned by NYC’s Summerstage in collaboration with choreographer Karole Armitage; Three Fragments (2011) for Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. His orchestral work Interventions was commissioned and premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in 2007 under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies. It was praised by The New York Times as “all spiky and sonorous,” and by the Philadelphia City Paper for its “heft and dramatic vision and a daring sense of soundscape.” Other works include Mutations I-X (2005) commissioned and premiered by the string quartet ETHEL; Three Episodes for Wind Quintet (1999) written for Imani Winds; a “ravishing” (Variety) score for the original theater/dance work Betrothed (2007); the award-winning film score for Teza (2008) by legendary filmmaker Haile Gerima; a suite of acoustic jazz cues for the sports channel ESPN (2009); and the prize-winning audiovisual installation Release (2010) in collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison. Forthcoming commissions include pieces for Jennifer Koh, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and So Percussion. His concert works are published by Schott Music. An active electronic musician and producer, Iyer displays his digital audio artistry on his own recordings Still Life with Commentator, Holding it Down, Mutations, and Radhe Radhe, and in his remixes for British Asian electronica pioneer Talvin Singh, Islamic punk band The Kominas, and composer-performer Meredith Monk.

Iyer was voted the 2010 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association, and named one of 2011’s “50 Most Influential Global Indians” by GQ India. Other honors include the Greenfield Prize, the Alpert Award in the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, the India Abroad Publisher’s Special Award for Excellence, and numerous critics’ prizes.

Iyer’s many collaborators include creative music pioneers Steve Coleman, Wadada Leo Smith, Roscoe Mitchell, Butch Morris, George Lewis, Amina Claudine Myers, William Parker, Graham Haynes, Miya Masaoka, Pamela Z, John Zorn; next-generation artists Rudresh Mahanthappa, Rez Abbasi, Craig Taborn, Ambrose Akinmusire, Liberty Ellman, Steve Lehman, Matana Roberts, Tyshawn Sorey; Dead Prez, DJ Spooky, Himanshu Suri of Das Racist, HPrizm of Antipop Consortium, DJ Val Jeanty, Karsh Kale, Suphala, Imani Uzuri, and Talvin Singh; filmmakers Haile Gerima, Prashant Bhargava, and Bill Morrison; choreographer Karole Armitage; novelist and essayist Teju Cole; and poets Mike Ladd, Amiri Baraka, Charles Simic, and Robert Pinsky.

A polymath whose career has spanned the sciences, the humanities, and the arts, Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from the University of California, Berkeley. He has published in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Wire, Music Perception, JazzTimes, Journal of the Society for American Music, Critical Studies in Improvisation, in the anthologies Arcana IV, Sound Unbound, Uptown Conversation, The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010, and The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies. Prior to his permanent appointment at Harvard in 2014, Iyer taught at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and the New School. He is the Director of The Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, an annual 3-week program in Alberta, Canada. Iyer has served as Artistic Director of the Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music since 2013. He has been featured as Artist-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Wigmore Hall (London), the Molde Jazz Festival (Molde, Norway), SF Jazz, and Jazz Middelheim (Antwerp, Belgium), and served as Music Director for the 2017 Ojai Music Festival in southern California. He will be the Composer-in-Residence at Wigmore Hall for 2019–20. He is a Steinway artist and uses Ableton Live software.

Newark-born multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey (b. 1980) is celebrated for his incomparable virtuosity, effortless mastery and memorization of highly complex scores, and an extraordinary ability to blend composition and improvisation in his work. He has performed nationally and internationally with his own ensembles, as well as artists such as John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Claire Chase, Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, Robyn Schulkowsky, Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, and Myra Melford, among many others.

The New York Times has praised Sorey for his instrumental facility and aplomb, “he plays not only with gale-force physicality, but also a sense of scale and equipoise”; The Wall Street Journal notes Sorey is, “a composer of radical and seemingly boundless ideas.” The New Yorker recently noted that Sorey is “among the most formidable denizens of the in-between zone…An extraordinary talent who can see across the entire musical landscape.”

Sorey has received support for his creative projects from The Jerome Foundation, The Shifting Foundation, Van Lier Fellowship, and was recently named a 2017 MacArthur fellow. The Spektral Quartet, Ojai Music Festival, and International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) have commissioned his works, which exemplify a penchant for a thorough exploration of the intersection between improvisation and composition. Sorey also collaborates regularly with ICE as a percussionist and resident composer. Future commissions include a residency at the Berlin Jazz Festival and Carnegie Hall’s 125 Commissions Project in partnership with Opera Philadelphia supporting a new work for tenor Lawrence Brownlee addressing themes associated with Black Lives Matter.

As a leader, Sorey has released seven critically acclaimed recordings that feature his work as a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and conceptualist. His latest, Pillars (Firehouse 12 Records, 2018), has been praised by Rolling Stone as “an immersive soundworld…sprawling, mysterious… thrilling” and has been named as one of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction 2018 albums of the year.

In 2012, he was selected as one of nine composers for the Other Minds Festival, where he exchanged ideas with such like-minded peers as Ikue Mori, Ken Ueno, and Harold Budd. In 2013, Jazz Danmark invited him to serve as the Danish International Visiting Artist. He was a 2015 recipient of the Doris Duke Impact Award. Sorey has taught and lectured on composition and improvisation at Columbia University, The New School, The Banff Centre, Wesleyan University, International Realtime Music Symposium, Hochschule für Musik Köln, Berklee College of Music, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Danish Rhythmic Conservatory. His work has been premiered at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Ojai Music Festival, The Kitchen, Walt Disney Hall, Roulette, Issue Project Room, and the Stone, among many other established venues and festivals.

As of Fall 2017 he has held the role of Assistant Professor of Composition and Creative Music at Wesleyan University, where he received his Masters degree in Composition in 2011.

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