Strings Attached

02.01.14
Jennifer Koh & Shai Wosner , Shai Wosner, Jennifer Koh
The Whole Note

By Terry Robbins

My eyes light up whenever I see a new Jennifer Koh CD from the Cedille label, and the latest release from this most intelligent of performers, signs, games + messages (CDR 90000 143) certainly doesn’t disappoint. Koh is joined by pianist Shai Wosner in a recital that features works by Leoš Janácek, Béla Bartók and the 87-year-old Hungarian composer György Kurtág. Koh and Wosner, in a joint statement in the excellent booklet notes, cite their desire to explore the tension between the visionary modernism of the works and the pull of the folk and cultural memory that is so essential to the personal language of these composers, as the spark for this recital.

There really does seem to be a logical progression through the program, from Janácek’s Violin Sonata, through a selection of short aphorisms by Kurtág, to Bartók’s First Violin Sonata. There are four solo piano pieces from the Játékok series and four solo violin pieces from Signs, Games and Messages in the Kurtág works in addition to three duo works, and the piano pieces in particular have echoes of Janácek’s piano series On An Overgrown Path. The Bartók sonata seems to follow naturally from the final Kurtág work, the In Nomine – all’ongherese for solo violin.

Needless to say, the performing and recording standard throughout is of the highest quality. Once again, Koh provides us with a fascinating journey through a carefully chosen and perfectly balanced program.

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