"Dissolve, O my Heart has its roots in a late-night conversation over Chinese food and cupcakes with violinist Jennifer Koh," writes composer Missy Mazzoli about the first piece of their long association and the opening work of their Fortas Chamber Music Concert. “[Jennifer} told me about her Bach & Beyond project, a program that combines Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas with newly commissioned works, and asked if I would write a piece that referenced Bach’s Partita in D Minor. This request was...utterly terrifying, the last movement of the Partita, the Chaconne, is undoubtedly the most famous piece of solo violin literature in the world.... But something about Jennifer’s enthusiasm was infectious, and I agreed to the project before I realized what I was getting myself into. Jennifer seemed to approach Bach through the lens of contemporary music, and I realized that this was what this new piece should do as well. 

Dissolve, O my Heart [the title comes from an aria in Bach’s St. John’s Passion] begins with the first chord of Bach’s Chaconne, a now-iconic d minor chord, and spins out from there into an off-kilter series of chords that doubles back on itself, collapses and ultimately dissolves in a torrent of fast passages.” 

Fortas Chamber Music Concerts artistic director Jennifer Koh will join forces with Missy Mazzoli in a violin and piano recital the Kennedy Center website describes as “elegant yet challenging.” The duo will perform a full evening of Mazzoli’s works, and as Jennifer Koh says, “Missy Mazzoli and I have been working together for over 10 years now. This program is about respect, love, and admiration between two artists and celebrating that longtime friendship and musical collaboration. There is something really beautiful in seeing how we support each other as artists and get to watch each other grow. Audiences will also get to see the evolution of us as musicians on full display.” 

The evocatively named works on the program include A Thousand Tongues, based on poetry by Stephen Crane; Orizzonte, originally performed on a piano that had been left out in the rain in Amsterdam; and the pandemic-era Hail, Horrors, Hail comes from a passage in Milton’s Paradise Lost. 

Mazzoli wrote Kinski Paganini for Jennifer Koh. It references Paganini’s 24th Caprice but is also a nod to the 1989 Klaus Kinski film “Paganini.” A Song for Mick Kelly was inspired by a gifted teenage character in Carson McCullers’ novel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter who wants to be a composer, and even tries to build a violin out of a cigar box. Mazzoli imagines the music Mick might write. 

The program is challenging, yes, but also highly entertaining, intellectually satisfying, and provides a fascinating window into the inspiration and motivation of a composer and the meeting of musical minds. As the Kennedy Center describes it, “Koh’s commanding performance combined with Mazzoli’s profound compositions and musicianship promise a mesmerizing evening in the intimate, cabaret-style lounge of the Club at Studio K.”  


Jennifer Koh, violin 
Missy Mazzoli, piano 


Dissolve, O My Heart 
Interlude 1 
A Thousand Tongues 
Tooth and Nail 
Interlude 2 
Hail, Horrors, Hail 
Kinski Paganini 
A Song for Mick Kelly 

Friday, March 1 at 7:30 pm 
Club at Studio K (The Reach) 

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