By J.D. Goddard

Kosower&OhAn evening of Brahms at any venue, with any combination of instruments, is always a deeply moving experience for those who love Romantic music. And so it was Wednesday evening, July 16 at Kent State’s Ludwig Recital Hall when Cleveland Orchestra principal cello Mark Kosower and pianist Jee-Won Oh presented three Brahms sonatas as part of the Kent/Blossom Music Festival Faculty Recital Series. This was an evening of deep emotion as these two excellent performers fused their exceptional talents into an exquisite program.

Kosower and Oh began the program with the First Cello Sonata in e minor, op. 38. The opening Allegro non troppo was filled with deep, pensive motifs intermingled with beautifully lyric lines replete with melodious thirds and sixths. Oh masterfully laid down a solid, flowing foundation of arpeggios for Kosower’s sweeping phrases. The Allegretto quasi Menuetto-Trio danced along with close attention to phrasing and lift. The final Allegro began dramatically then settled once again into lush Romantic phrases that pitted triplets against duples. Kosower and Oh tightly wove their playing together in a forceful yet congenial mood of equally shared responsibilities.

Sometimes when a composition is adapted for another instrument it is less than successful. However, this was not the case with Brahms’s First Violin Sonata in G, op. 78, in an arrangement in D major for cello by Paul Klengel, published in the last year of Brahms’s life. Kosower’s beautiful interpretation filled the arrangement with grace and poise.

The opening Vivace ma non troppo featured a flowing melody punctuated by strumming on cello and beautiful lines in thirds on piano. A highlight of the program, the Adagio was suffused with warmth and nuance. The final Allegro molto moderato alternated between lyricism and drama.

In the second half, Kosower and Oh further confirmed their strong musical relationship with a performance of the Cello Sonata No. 2 in F, op. 99. The drama-packed opening Allegro vivace began with a grandiose piano solo that, when joined by Kosower, filled the hall with immeasurable romantic melodic content. In the Adagio affettuoso, a flowing cello line wafted overhead with a simple accompaniment. A storm suddenly erupted in the third movement, Allegro passionate, eventually fading into a soothing calm. The final Allegro molto was almost dancelike in its conception. Its final, deep melodic line brought the evening to a close.

The commingling of Kosower and Oh’s musicianship was exhilarating. They moved and played as one, painting a magnificent musical picture in motion.

Published on ClevelandClassical.com July 22, 2014.

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