Violinist Brian Hong first learned J.S. Bach’s famous Chaconne from Partita No. 2 while attending the Bowdoin International Music Festival at age 16. In the decade since, he’s returned to the piece at major turning points in his life, reinterpreting it each time he’s played it. The COVID-19 pandemic was one of those such times, which led him to choose this piece for his House Music series video. The Chaconne allows him to let go of the frustrations he has with violin technique and to embrace the music’s raw emotion.
Hong first performed with Metropolis Ensemble during the Time Travelers to Versailles concert that took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which featured a program inspired by the inordinate luxury of the palace of Versailles. He was blown away by the artistry of the ensemble and craved more performance opportunities with the group; this concert came during his time as a graduate student where he was interested in gaining more experience as a free-lance musician in New York. Since then, he performed in January 2020’s Ciranda concert at Le Poisson Rouge.
For the House Music series, he eschews his former teachers’ requirements and performs the Chaconne tuned to A 415. It’s a lower pitch than is typical for modern violins, but it’s the pitch he grew up hearing; he loved to listen to interpretations of Bach played on period instruments. The recording was made during the summer of 2020 at his parents’ home in Virginia after just finishing his graduate degree. Between finishing school and the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a tumultuous time. What you see here is a snapshot of him in that moment, of what he was feeling channeled through the rich harmonies and roller coaster of emotion in Bach’s music. — Vanessa Ague