Jennifer Koh, Shai Wosner deliver sizzling SummerFest performance

08.17.17
Jennifer Koh & Shai Wosner
San Diego Union Tribune

Koh and Wosner’s rendition of the “Kreutzer” sonata was a magnanimously full-bodied conception that never lost sight of the details, and there were plenty of fleeting moments to cherish amid the rush of the outer movements and the poetic dignity of the second movement.

Wosner’s trills were marvelously executed, every single note articulated in precise rhythm. However, these were no gears purring away, but rather a clockwork bird’s song magically imbued with life. The variations gave Wosner the opportunity to display a gorgeous cantabile tone, a fine partner to Koh’s silky caress of the theme.

Koh brought a dramatic urgency to her sound, a fire-in-the-belly striving that was overwhelming in Beethoven’s climaxes. In her softer moments, she coyly played with a judicious rubato, teasing with the melody, delaying it ever so slightly.

The program began with Beethoven’s first two violin sonatas, Opus 12. These works are less ferocious, finding Beethoven comfortably trying on the Viennese classical style, and adding his own twists to it.

In Opus 12, No. 1, Wosner’s rhythm at times was a little too matter-of-fact. Compared to Jon Kimura Parker’s Beethoven, Wosner used more pedal to connect lines and alter his color, but it was tastefully done. Like Parker, Wosner’s finger work could be dazzling, as in the triplets of the first movement of Opus 12, No. 2.

Koh was much more in front of the accompaniment than Cho-Liang Lin was on Tuesday, and she played with more expression than him, but never excessively so.

Their performances of these two early sonatas were playful, but both musicians seemed to find the “Kreutzer” sonata a better match to their personalities.

The evening ended with an encore of the brief, witty third movement from Beethoven’s “Spring” sonata, a nice musical bow to wrap up the duo’s performance.
 
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