BR 147

Elgar-Bridge-Vaughan Williams
Karen Johnson, Violin
Joanne Kong, Piano

Violinist Karen Johnson began her musical studies in her hometown of Gilbert, Arizona, at the age of 4. At age 10, she became the pupil of Dr. William Magers at Arizona State University and under his tutelage won such competitions as the Corpus Christi International Young artist Competition, the Midland-Odessa National Young Artist Competition, and the Music Teachers National Association Yamaha String Competition.

In 1996, Ms. Johnson began her studies at the Juilliard School as the pupil of Joel Smirnoff and while attending school was the winner of the Juilliard Sibelius Violin Concerto Competition, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and the Jefferson Symphony Competitions, as well as the Music Academy of the West Festival Competition.

While completing her Bachelor's degree, Ms. Johnson was first violinist of the Vaux String Quartet which performed throughout the Eastern United States, including performances at New York's Alice Tully Hall. She also served as Concertmaster of the Juilliard orchestras, performing the solo violin parts of Richard Strauss's Le Bourgeois Gentilhome, Symphonia domestica, and Ein Heldenleben, all at New York's Lincoln Center.

Ms. Johnson completed her Masters degree at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2002, studying with William Preucil, Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and former first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet.

Ms. Johnson has performed in concerts throughout the United States and Europe and has worked with a variety of renowned conductors and musicians, such as James DePriest, Sergiu Commissiona, Keith Lockhart, Yuri Temerkanov, Jamie Laredo, and Joseph Silverstein.

Since 2002, Ms. Johnson has served as the Concertmaster of the Richmond Symphony. She is married to Karl Johnson, bass trombonist in the "President's Own" U.S. Marine Band, and is the proud mom of Julia.

As a soloist and chamber and orchestral musician, Ms. Johnson's playing has been applauded for by the following reviews.

“Intimacy and warmth of tone”
Santa Barbara Independent

“Johnson made the Vaughan WIlliams sound like a masterpiece when she played it in rdcital and her recording (BR147) has comparable sweep and portent”
"Bridge's impressionistic miniatures nicley reduce the scale and relax the tension between the bing sonatas. Johnson emphasizes their color and atmospherics."
"Kong is a fine pianist, but more importantly for these purposes she is a supremely gifed accompanist, a stylish and reliable partner enchancing music in which the violin is the dominant voice (BR147)."
Clarke Bustard, Music Editor
Richmond Tines- Dispatch

“Sparkling and courageous”
Mesa Tribune

“A superior musician who also conveys charm and approachability”
Richmond Style Weekly

Edward Elgar’s Violin Sonata is a well-known staple of the repertory, and it takes a good deal of courage for lesser-known musicians to record it. This is one of the best recordings of the work I have heard, and I can know of only two or three that I think are better. The opening movement is boldly expressive, and Johnson and Kong play assertively and incisively…. I had never heard them before, but the short pieces by Frank Bridge turned out to be a pleasant surprise. They are lovely, simple, songful salon pieces permeated with the nostalgia typical of English music of the first half of the 20th Century…. It is a real pleasure to discover a violinist of the caliber of Karen Johnson…. Her tone is broad and pure, her attacks are flawlessly incisive, her vibrato nicely modulated, and her intonation infallible—a real virtue in a very chromatic piece like the Vaughan Williams. Joanne Kong is a full partner and no shrinking-violet accompanist, yet she never overpowers Johnson. She draws a fine range of colors from the piano. The recording has a nice, natural perspective, not too close and not too distant, and the instruments are also balanced. I’d be happy to hear more from these two.


Recognized as an artist of exceptional versatility, keyboardist Joanne Kong has received critical praise for her "great finesse and flexibility," (The Washington Post) "utmost keyboard sensitivity and variety of tone," (Richmond Times-Dispatch ) "remarkable technical ability," (The Oregonian) and "superb artistry." (San Antonio Express-News)

BR133 is the first-ever recording of the Goldberg and Diabelli Variations on the harpsichord and piano, performed by a single artist. The harpsichord used in the recording was built by Eric Herz of Cambridge, MA, it is modeled after the instruments of the 18th-century German builder Hieronymous Hass.

With a specialty in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Dr. Kong has been a featured soloist in the Los Angeles Bach Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Abbey Bach Festival, Bach Aria Festival and Institute, Houston Harpsichord Society Recital Series, Texas Bach Collegium series, and has received critical acclaim for her interpretations of the Goldberg Variations and Well-Tempered Clavier.

As a Beethoven performer she was designated as a Laureate in the 1983 National Beethoven Foundation Fellowship Auditions, and won the Grand Prize in the International Piano Recording Competition for a 1985 performance of the Diabelli Variations.

Kong's concertizing as a soloist has included orchestral performances under William McGlaughlin, Myung-Whun Chung, Alberto Bolet, Samuel Baron, and George Manahan, and she is in frequent demand as a chamber keyboardist at concert venues throughout the country, including recent collaborations with the Shanghai String Quartet, flutist Eugenia Zukerman, and cellist James Wilson. Her numerous radio broadcasts across the country have included National Public Radio, WQXR in New York, and WFMT in Chicago.

"Kong is a fine pianist, but more importantly for these purposes she is a supremely gifed accompanist, a stylish and reliable partner enchancing music in which the violin is the dominant voice (BR147)."
Clarke Bustard, Music Editor
Richmond Tines- Dispatch

"This has instantly become one of my favorite CDs, and I have hundreds, even just of baroque music....Kong's CD is a masterpiece, and should be bought without hesitation by all Bach fans."
Dr Barry D. Steben National University of Singapore

"It takes an artist with a great deal of self-confidence, not to mention talent, to undertake recording another version of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Joanna Kong's recording of the work on harpsichrd helps to give it a more historically accurate perspective, and her ability at the keyboard offers reason for contemplating its addition to your collection....Ms. Kong demonstrates enormous improvisational ability in rendering these variations....The subtle wit, charm, and inventiveness she brings to this work allow it to move beyond their status as mere lullabies and into the realm of pleasurable musical interludes to be savored over and over....If you're looking for an alternative to the Gould recordings, this one should head toward the top of your audition list."
John Crossett ,

“Novel as this double CD may be, the real distinction of these recordings is their performances. Her Bach is unusually lyrical, while it adheres to standard Baroque performance practices. The “Diabelli” disc is more than a bonus. Kong’s songful, soulful and sensitively dynamic treatment ranks at or (usually) above the levels of the dozen-odd other recordings of the piece that I've heard.”
Clarke Bustard, Music Editor
Richmond Times-Dispatc

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