“…obvious virtuosity, …one could hardly play better.”
—SUDDEUTCHE ZEITUNG, Munich
“…strong impact, her playing holds one enthralled demonstrating strong personality and assured technique.”
“…wondrous forayinto solo virtuso technique, Kurkowicz is fearless.”
“This is music which demands disciplined virtuosity, such as Joanna Kurkowicz has in spades…”
“…a very cultivated artist.”
“It is necessary to mention brilliant style of the violinist, Joanna Kurkowicz. A rich, clear sound, technical virtuosity, precise phrasing, sense of style and an extraordinary musicality create a unique experience.”
“Joanna Kurkowicz performs each work with conspicuous ease, …spectacular release.”
(G. Bacewicz Violin Sonatas, Chandos)
“…luxury class, elaborate, uncompromising and convincing.”
(D. Shostakovitch Sonata)
“What a great discovery! These chamber works of Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz should impress most listeners as dense masterpieces of neoclassical and atonal style… With its stunning challenges to virtuosity, this piece should leave you with your jaw hanging open… It could have been written for her (Joanna Kurkowicz), so naturally does she navigate its difficult landscape. This melding of three formidable artists grabbed my attention from the start and wouldn’t let go until the last note.”
—Peter Bates, AUDOPHILE AUDITION
“…excellent performer, graceful and techniqually assured…”
“…extraordinary violinist with talent and stage presence, …her performance was stellar! …in the program that challenged her virtuosity as much as her stamina, …she shows the effects of European discipline in all her playing.”
—TELEGRAM-TRIBUNE, Santa Barbara
“These are super performances. Kurkowicz produces wonderful sounds…”
(G. Bacewicz Violin Sonatas, Chandos)
“…Joanna Kurkowicz, a commanding violinist with superb intonation…”
—Richard Dyer, BOSTON GLOBE
“…Joanna Kurkowicz originally from Lublin, Poland and currently leader of the Boston Philharmonic plays this music on her trusty 1699 Petrus Guarnerius with a passion, authority and sheer elan which suggests a longer familiarity with these scores than can surely have been the case… Kurkowicz appears to have all the answers.”
(G.Bacewicz Violin Sonatas, Chandos)
—INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW
“…Kurkowicz performance was splendid, astounding and colorful. She played with intensity and respect for this great music.”
“…As the soloist in Alfred Schnittke’s own orchestration of his nightmerish, brilliantly creepy Violin Sonata No.1, Joanna Kurkowicz excelled with her confident, bravura playing.”
“…it would be hard to imagine more beautiful performance.”
(R. Clarke Sonatas)
“…she gave a scorching performance…”
(K. Szymanowski’s Violin Sonata)
“…crystal clear, …commited and well played, with good sound to match.”
“Violinist Joanna Kurkowicz and pianist Gloria Chien play with flair, precision and sensitivity… Kurkowicz is excellent.”
(G. Bacewicz Violin Sonatas, Chandos)
—AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
“…sensitive, honest musicianship, so rare in our young talented generation.”
“…true artistic temperament and personality supported
by solid technical knowledge of the instrument.”
—Laurence Lesser, former President, New England Conservatory
“Alfred Schnittke’s sensational sonata for violin and piano, in the composer’s arrangement for soloist, strings, and harpsichord, sounds like a different, but equally sensational, work. Violinist Joanna Kurkowicz flew straight at it with teeth, claws, and soul bared…”
“…In each event, (Ms. Kurkowicz) has performed at the highest level, with fluent technique and a very sophisticated sense of musicality… In an extremely competitive arena, she is already among the first rank of her generation.”
—Michael Flemming, Producer, WGBH Radio, Boston
“…Ms. Kurkowicz played with masterful technique and good sense of breath between the notes. A very satisfying performance, indeed.”
(E. Bloch “Poeme Mystique”)
“This recording is an excellent example of the most successful promotion of Polish music… Top-notch violinist, Joanna Kurkowicz posseses a beautiful, refined and penetrating sound, impeccable technique and profound experience as a chamber musician.”
“…conductor Benjamin Zander opened the program with Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre.” As part of the graveyard revels depicted, the piece has a bit of devilish fiddling that was performed with great flair by the concertmaster Joanna Kurkowicz.”
“…The piece was played with great passion, including terrific violin playing.”
(A. Beach Piano Quintet in F sharp minor)
“Joanna Kurkowicz sensibly presents all the complexity of Schnittke’s music–melancholy, distress, fear, despair, grotesque, humor–as well as it’s sophisticated virtuosity.”
“Leon Kirchner “Music for Twelve” took us a step towards music as expression rather than equation, with a soulful violin–the superb Joanna Kurkowicz–dancing sadly over the instrumental turmoil.”
“For Shostakovitch’s trio, Schepkin, Kurkowicz, and Romanienko summoned the courage and calm needed to abandon themselves… these matchless young artists found a human voice and wisdom far beyond their years.”
“The ensemble opened with three short works of Szymanowski’s, full of color and imagination, performed by excellent violinist Joanna Kurkowicz. It was a truly musical event, with terrific interaction between pianist and fiddler, who conjured many spells from the violin.”
(K. Szymanowski Myths)
“The Boston Philharmonic and conductor Benjamin Zander opened their season this weekend with a mixed bag: a comparative rarity, a venerable warhorse, and a novelty that stole the show from both.
The new piece, an American premiere, was Shirish Korde’s “Svara-Yantra,” and a terrific piece it is. In this Indian-influenced concerto for violin, tabla (Indian tuned drums), and orchestra, East and West don’t meet halfway: the traditional symphony is instead dropped into the middle of the subcontinent, exploding with color. The Philharmonic’s usual concertmistress, Joanna Kurkowicz, commissioned the work from Korde, a native of India who teaches at Holy Cross; Kurkowicz carried the opening movement, spinning out declamatory arabesques, idiomatically sliding and bending tones over a drone that coursed through the orchestra with impressionistic vibrancy.
The superb tabla player Samir Chatterjee joined the conversation in the second movement, […] and the music kicked into high gear, Kurkowicz’s scurrying violin riding Chatterjee’s intricate drumming over Technicolor splashes from the orchestra. […] An extended give-and-take between the two enthused soloists anchored the finale, framed by a torrential, exuberant tune taken up by the entire band, propelled by Chatterjee’s rhythmic authority and Kurkowicz’s energy.”
—BOSTON GLOBE by Matthew Guerrieri
“Kudos to the Boston Philharmonic for performing not just one, but two unfamiliar pieces. The gamble paid off. The crowd warmed immediately to Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones concertantes. But they burned white hot to Shirish Korde’s Svara-Yantra.
Nothing could have prepared the crowd for Korde’s Svara-Yantra, Concerto for Violin and Tabla. You don’t get many pieces like this in a given year. Those who heard Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar’s “East Meets West” recordings of the late sixties may have had some point of reference, but most probably didn’t. The concerto began with an alap, a non-rhythmic movement with an irregular pulse. From the beginning violinist Joanna Kurkowicz infused it with a keening and probing mood. The second movement plunged the audience into the world of eastern rhythms. Kurkowicz, a musician inherently infused with the soul of modernism, accomodated the piece’s harsh angles and–yes, there were some–smooth curves. She deftly led the audience through the winding tempos and corralled the dynamic shadings, effortlessly leaping to other keys and ever higher levels of intensity. Samir Chatterjee played tabla with a deftness that recalled tabla player Zakir Hussain. His style seemed to incorporate a catalog of tabla effects, including bols, which are non-verbal mutterings that approximate the tabla “talking.” Kurkowicz and Korde knew they were introducing a new type of music to the Boston audience, a hybrid of western orchestral effects and eastern rhythms, so they filled it with cascades of invention. It deserved every second of its standing ovation.”
“The concert’s apex was the next piece, Shirish Korde’s ambitious blend of Indian, Southeast Asian and Western, even jazz, elements.
The Philharmonic’s usual concertmistress, Joanna Kurkowicz, was the violin soloist and, in fact, Korde, who is a professor of music at Holy Cross, wrote the piece for her. Joining her on tabla, a set of Indian bongo-like hand drums with a single head but double body of truncated cones and electronically amplified, was world-renowned tabla player Samir Chatterjee. The soloists in pale lavender and turquoise satin, respectively, provided a visual and aural feast of mind-boggling impact. Through three movements, two Indian ragas, rhythmic scaled entities developed from the 5th century CE, and third concluding movement titled “Joy” but perhaps more accurately labeled “frenzy,” the music spun out filmic, haunting melodies, mournful meditations and wondrous ethereal moments. The standing ovation at the end of the piece continued until Korde himself was forced to come to the front and acknowledge the cheering.
—WORCESTER TELEGRAM and GAZETTE
“Joanna Kurkowicz is not a new name on the Chandos label: she has already released a CD of music of Grazyna Bacewicz (1909–1969) on CHAN 10250, reviewed to much acclaim by the international press. Kurkowicz’s busy schedule is characterised by an impressively enterprising repertoire and she has premiered a host of important new contemporary works. Her Bacewicz recording on Chandos is a prime example of her approach: enterprising repertoire with superb, virtuosic musicianship (‘disciplined virtuosity’, as Gramophone magazine wrote!) and a dazzling freshness of inspiration.
This month sees the release of some remarkable, varied and striking music in the Violin Concerto Svara Yantra of Shirish Korde. This haunting work, richly imbued with Indian colours and musical tradition, offers something unique and powerful, with all manner of exotic and imaginative instrumental textures and detail from both the soloist, Kurkowicz, and the orchestra. By way of contrast, Japan is the inspiration for the second concertante work on this recording, Cranes Dancing. Again, one finds oneself responding to the myriad of haunting and exotic sounds conjured up in this impressive work, which is dedicated to Joanna Kurkowicz and was premiered in 2005 (MISC 1005) ”
“It’s difficult playing Prokofiev at ten o’clock at night! said violinist Joanna Kurkowicz after her stellar rendition of the Sonata No. 1 in F Minor. Yes, probably as difficult as diving into a cold mountain stream. But if you are a good swimmer, you quickly adapt. Portentous piano figures and quivering violin notes open this piece, and the audience instantly senses that they’re in for a twentieth century experience different from the jocund pyrotechnics of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2. Composed before and after World War II, Sonata No. 1 features doleful crossbowing, rapid glissandos and spectacular demisemiquavers. Kurkowicz and Chien both excel at exposing the harsh edges of a piece, and in this one there is perfect synchronicity between the two. It’s as if they are one player before us with two sets of arms. In the second movement (Allegro brusco), the descending triplets, shards of melody, are repeated furiously, almost angrily. The Andante is a keening, but not entirely tragic, movement. The musicians’ grasp of Prokofiev’s faint hope glimmerings is poignant without a trace of sentimentality. The final movement is virtuosic, arch, even playful. The way Chien accompanies Kurkowicz’s tasty pizzacatos is amazing, as is the way both lead the piece to its melancholic coda.”
“One of the most reliably creative chamber groups around, Chameleon Arts Ensemble marked the close of its 10th season with an anniversary concert dedicated to that round number. Two of the works shared Opus 10 designations, and the rest featured at least some decimal reference.
Three instruments – Joanna Kurkowicz’s violin, Scott Woolweaver’s viola, and Rafael Popper-Keizer’s cello – made a surprisingly big sound in Ernst von Dohnanyi’s Op. 10 Serenade, low and open strings creating a folk-tinged Romanticism, a village band essaying Brahms; the players brought appropriate rustic vigor, but also smoothly varnished their dark sound for a melancholy series of variations.
Eight months after the premiere of his final symphony, Robert Schumann composed his Op. 110 Piano Trio, similarly assimilating his aphoristic penchant into a formally grand conception; Kurkowicz, Popper-Keizer, and pianist Gloria Chien ranged from intimate to epic, with a generous dynamic range and a superbly paced sense of drama.”
—BOSTON GLOBE by Matthew Guerrieri
“With Schumann’s “Sonata No. 2 in D Minor,” the Chameleons finally began to show what they could do. Written very near the end of this great chamber composer’s life, the piece is a lyrical, yet tonally dense and subtly melancholic work that’s always compelling yet somehow thematically elusive. Violinist Joanna Kurkowicz kept its many facets in superb balance in a very committed performance, ably supported by the exquisitely attentive playing of Gloria Chien on piano. It was nice to hear this well-intentioned if meandering evening at least go out with a satisfying musical bang.”
— Thomas Garvey
“Maurice Ravel liked breaking the rules, if it meant seizing the audience’s attention. Perhaps that is why he opens his rhapsody Tzigane unconventionally, with a violin solo. Violinist Joanna Kurkowitz has to put herself in a zone of intense focus for this one. When she does, this most riveting virtuosic piece proceeds with stunning pace and technique, reminiscent of pieces by Niccolo Paganini, Pablo de Sarasate, and even Bela Bartok. Yet it is filled with Ravelian violin technique, like the sudden bursts of pizzacatos, rapid accelerandos, and high register work he used in his String Quartet twenty years previous. The gypsy influence (without authentic gypsy tunes) is so obvious you can practically envision dancers whirling in colourful skirts. This is a true show piece and Kurkowitz and pianist Gloria Chen handle it with skill and creativity. A pity the Chameleons didn’t use a lutheal, the prepared piano the piece was originally written for. I’ve heard they’re hard to get.”
— STYLUS MAGAZINE, Peter Bates
“The performance of Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor (1800) was a thing of beauty throughout, with violinist Joanna Kurkowicz and Russian-American guest pianist Sergey Schepkin conversing like a married couple, intense and passionate in the opening Presto, then playful but with an edge in the Andante scherzoso. In the Molto allegro rondo finale, they tried to outdo each other, alternating fireworks with teasing pauses. The finish itself was a tease, as if the couple had talked themselves out and were going to bed.”
— BOSTON GLOBE, Jeffrey Gantz
“The closer for the evening was a horse of different hue. Kurkowicz and Guzman collaborated in a full-throated and kinetic performance of Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, op. 45, the last and most popular of Grieg’s violin sonatas, although not perhaps as often played as his cello sonata. Good for you, Chameleon, for programming it. The force of this sonata comes from its grabbing melodies and ingenious harmonization rather than any subtlety in their working out. These, and Grieg’s sheer insistence, create a charged atmosphere that Kurkowicz exploited with fire and bravura and a gorgeous, delicate and über-Romantic sheen in the alla romanza middle movement. Especially in the finale, she swung for the bleachers whenever the opportunity presented itself.”
—THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Vance R.Koven
“The last composition of the evening was well worth the wait— Edvard Grieg’s (1843–1907) lovely Sonata No. 3 in c minor, Op 45, full of dramatic tension, urgency, and striking beauty. It was given a gorgeous performance by violinist Joanna Kurkowicz (always worth hearing) and pianist Christopher Guzman.
—THE ART FUSE, Susan Miron
Ein Heldenleben contained many dramatic alterations of mood that seemed to inspire Zander and the Philharmonic. A highlight was the solo violin part representing Strauss’s wife, played by concertmaster Joanna Kurkowicz.
—BOSTON CLASSICAL REVIEW, Angelo Mao