The Two x Four project stems from a humble premise—two violinists performing the work of four composers. However, the project is not intended to focus merely on the performative aspect of music; instead, Two x Four is a celebration of a tremendous collaboration between violinists Jennifer Koh and Jaime Laredo, a partnership that began when Koh was Laredo’s student at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. While Laredo is quick to point out that their relationship has since developed to that of colleagues, Koh’s reverence for Laredo as a life-long mentor is obvious in the duo’s work.
Preparations for Two x Four began in 2010, when Koh approached composers Anna Clyne and David Ludwig about creating new works for two violins, an instrumentation choice inspired by one the most cherished pieces in Koh’s repertoire: Bach’s double violin concerto (formally, Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043). Koh first performed this piece with Laredo while still a student at Curtis, and since then the piece has stayed with her as a memory of the generous dialogue between student and mentor. In asking Clyne and Ludwig to compose for two violins, the dialogue between Koh and Laredo continues in homage to the tradition of Bach’s double, reinforcing the collaboration that the Two x Four project celebrates.
Over the next year and a half, both Clyne and Ludwig worked with Koh to compose pieces that reflected the special partnership between Koh and Laredo. For Clyne, this meant finding each player’s individual voice within the context of the larger piece, deconstructing the ensemble and rebuilding it through the players’ musical relationship. For Ludwig, connecting to the tradition of the Bach double concerto was a compelling point of departure, allowing him to respond through composition to the relationship portrayed by Bach, and the relationship of the two violinists before him.
Koh encourages listeners to consider the performance tradition represented in the works on the Two x Four program. The two new compositions, Clyne’s Prince of Clouds and Ludwig’s Seasons Lost, both follow in the structural footsteps of Bach, nearly 300 years after the writing of his double violin concerto. The compositional dialogue between past and present resonates throughout tonight’s program, not only in reverence to the spirit of Bach, but as reassurance of his relevancy in the future.