Review: Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner

Jennifer Koh & Shai Wosner , Shai Wosner, Jennifer Koh
Albany Times Union

The program book at Union College gave no name to the 75-minute flow of continuous music performed by violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner on Sunday afternoon at Union College. But Koh's website bills the concert as "Bridge to Beethoven." The event consisted of the three Violin Sonatas from Beethoven's Opus 30 performed with a new introduction and two interludes by composer Andrew Norman.

Putting aside the contemporary for a moment, the afternoon showcased early Beethoven, much of it on the scale and style of Mozart. Koh and Wosner performed beautifully together, offering a lean sound that was often consoling and always lovely. The Adagio in the first sonata, for example, was intimate and detailed and felt like a long letter home. One sometimes just wanted to curl up in the warmth and intimacy of their playing.

Music that came late in the Opus 30 No. 2 (performed last) pushed toward the more assertive and turbulent Beethoven we know best. Here Koh's bowing got heavy and her sound less neat and focused. So too, Wosner left aside his polished elegance in favor of greater volume as short and explosive phrases drove the piece toward its conclusion.

Short and explosive phrases, with more dissonant harmonies, is how Norman began the afternoon. His "Bridge II" and "Bridge III" were sly and clever links between the sonatas. As for "Bridge I," it served as an introduction. But after hearing the finale of the last Beethoven Sonata, it became obvious that "Bridge I" could follow immediately after and lead us back to the top with the whole recital repeating. We could have been there long into the evening!

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